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© Pakistan Philosophical Congress 1966 

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Book Four 

(From the Fall of Baghdad [656^1258] to 1111/1700) 


XL Fall of the 'Abbasid Caliphate by Abdul Shakoor Ahsan, M.A., 
LL.B., Senior Lecturer in Persian, University of the Panjah, Lahore 
(Pakistan) 789 

XLI Ibn Taimiyyah by Serajul Haque, M.A., Ph.D., Professor and 
Chairman, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University 
of Dacca (Pakistan) 796 

Part 3. THE SUFIS 
XLII Jalal al-Dln Rumi by Khalifah Abdul Hakim, M. A., Ph.D., Direc- 
tor, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore (Pakistan) 820 

XLIII Mahmud Shabistari, al-Jili, and Jami by B.A. Dar 839 

XLIV S_haikh Ahmad Sirhindi by Muhammad Farman, M. A., Professor 

of Philosophy, Zamindara College, Oujrat (Pakistan) 873 


XLV Jalal al-Dln Dawwani by Bakhtyar Husain Siddiqi 883 

L.XLVT Ibn Khaldun by Muhsin Mahdi, Ph.D., Assistant . Pro) essor of 
T Arabic, University of Chicago (U.S.A.) 888 


XLVII The School of Ispahan by Seyyed Hoasein Nasr 904 

XLVIII Sadr al-Dln Shlrazi (Mulla Sadra) by Seyyed HosseinNasr . . 932 

,U XLIX Ibn Khaldun by Muhsin Mahdi 961 

Chapter Book Five Page 

(Covering Both the Early and the Later Centuries) 

L Arabic Literature: Poetic and Prose Forms by S.M. Yusuf, M.A., 
Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Arabic, University of Karachi 

(Pakistan) Q * 5 

LI Arabic Literature: Grammar and Lexicography by S.M. Yusuf 1015 

LII Arabic Literature: Theories of Literary Criticism by M. Khalaf- 

allah, M.A., Dean, Faculty of Arts, and Chairman, Department of 

Arabic and Oriental Studies, Alexandria University (U.A.R.) . . 1031 

LIII Persian Literature by Sa'id Nancy, M.A., Formerly, Professor of 

Persian Language and Literature, Teheran University, Teheran 

(Iran) 1043 

LIV Turkish Literature by Meedut Mansuroglu, Ph.D., Professor of 

Turkish Languages, Istanbul University (Turkey) 1058 

Part 2. FINE ARTS 
LV Architecture 

A. The First Three Centuries of Muslim Architecture by K. A.C. 
Creswell, F.S.A., Hons., A.R.I.B.A., School of Oriental 
Studies, Tlie American University, Cairo (U.A.R.) ■ ■ - - 1075 

B. Muslim Architecture in Later Centuries by S. Sibte Hasan, 
M. A., Formerly, Lecturer in Jefferson School of Social Sciences, 
New York ; Editor, Pakistan Review, Lahore 

M. Abdullah Chaghatai, D.Litt., Lecturer in Islamic Studies, 

University of the Panjab, Lahore 1082 

LVI Painting by M. Ajmal, M.A., Ph.D., Bureau of National Recon- 
struction, Rawalpindi (Pakistan) m° 

LVII Music by H. G. Farmer, M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt., D.Mus., Assistant 
Librarian (in charge of Music), Glasgow University Library; 
Vice-President, Glasgow University Oriental Society (U.K.) . . 1124 

LVIII Music (Continued) by H. G. Farmer H44 

LIX Minor Arts by Syed Abid AH Abid U78 

LX Historiography by I. H. Qureshi, M.A., Ph.D., Director, Central 

Institute of Islamic Research, Karachi (Pakistan) 1195 

LXI Jurisprudence by M. Hamidullah, M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt., 4, Rue 

de Tournon, Paris (France) 1219 

LXII Geography by Nans Ahmad, M.A., Ph.D., F.R.G.S., F.A.G.S., 
Professor and Chairman, Department of Geography, University of 

Dacca (Pakistan) 1244 

LXIII Mathematics and Astronomy by M. R. Siddiqi, M. A., Ph. D., D. Sc, 

V ice-Chancellor, University of Sind, Hyderabad (Pakistan) . . 1277 


Chapter Page 

LXIV Physics and Mineralogy by Muhammad Abdur Rahman Khan, 
B.Sc, A.R.C.S., F.R.A.S., Principal and Chairman, Department 
of Physics, Osmania University College; President, Hyderabad 

Academy, Hyderabad Deccan (India) 1292 

LXV Chemistry by Salimuzzaman Siddiqi, D.Phil., Nat., Dr. Med. h. c, 
F.R.S., Director, Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial 
Research, Karachi (Pakistan) 

S. Mahdihassan, Ph.D., F.I.I.Sc, F.R.I.C, Chairman, Bio- 
chemical Division, Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial 
Research, Karachi (Pakistan) 1296 

LXVI Natural History by Seyyed Hossein Nasr 1316 

LXVII Medicine by K. S. Shah, M.B., B.S., D.Sc, D.P.H., D.T.M., 
Professor of Bacteriology and Preventive Medicine, Fatimah Jinnah 
Medical College, Lahore (Pakistan) 1332 

Book Six 
LXVIII Influence of Muslim Thought on the West 

A. Western Thinkers on Islam in General 1349 

B. Theological Influence 1359 

C. Philosophical Influence before Descartes by H. Z. Ulken, 
Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy and Logic, Ankara University 
(Turkey) ,. . . . 1367 

D. Philosophical Influence from Descartes to Kant by M. M. Sharif 1381 

E. Philosophical Influence in the Post-Kantian Period by H. Z. 
Ulken 1387 

LXIX Influence of Muslim Thought on the East by C. A. Qadir . . . . 1389 

Book Seven 



LXX Decline in the Muslim World by C. A. Qadir 1417 

LXXI The Silver Lining: Development of the Urdu Language, Gram- 
mar, and Literature by S. M. Abdullah, M.A., M.O.L., D.Litt., 
Professor and Chairman, Department of Urdu, University of the 
Panjab; Principal, Oriental College, Lahore (Pakistan) .. .. 1434 

Book Eight 

LXXII Renaissance in Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon: 
Muhammad Bin 'Abd al-Wahhab and His Movement by Abdul 
Hamid Siddiqi, M.A., Professor of Economics, Islamia College, 
Lahore; Jt. Editor, Tarjuman al-Qur'an, Lahore (Pakistan) . . 1446 


Chapter Page 

L.XXIII Renaissance in North Africa: The Sanusiyyah Movement by 
Muhammad Khalil, LL.B., LL.D., Bar-at-Law, Advocate, Amman 

(Jordan) 1457 

LXXIV Jamsl al-Dln al-Afghani by Osman Amin, D. Litt., Professor and 

Chairman, Department of Philosophy, Cairo University (U.A.R.) 1482 
LXXV Renaissance in Egypt: Muhammad 'Abduh and His School by 

Osman Amin 1490 

LXXVI Renaissance in Turkey: Zia Gokalp and His School by Niazie 
Berkes, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies, 

McGitt University (Canada) 1513 

LXXVII Renaissance in Iran: General by Abdul Shakoor Ahsan . . . . 1524 
LXXVIII Renaissance in Iran (Continued): Haji Mulla Hadi Sabziwari by 

Seyyed Hossein Nasr 1543 

LXXIX Renaissance in Indo-Pakistan : Shah Wali Allah Dihlawi by Abdul 

Hamid Siddiqi 1557 

LXXX Renaissance in Indo-Pakistan (Continued): Sir Sayyid Ahmad 
Khan as a Politician, Historian, and Reformist by Abdul Hamid, 
M.A., Ph.D., Professor of History, Government College, Lahore 

(Pakistan) 1580 

LXXXI Renaissance in Indo-Pakistan (Continued): Sir Sayyid Ahmad 

Khan as a Religio-Philosophical Thinker by B.A. Dar . . . . 1598 
LXXXII Renaissance in Indo-Pakistan (Continued): Iqbal by Khahfah 

Abdul Hakim 1614 

LXXXIII Renaissance in Indonesia by Shaikh Abdur Rashid, M.A., 
Director, Historical Research Institute, University of the Panjab, 

Lahore (Pakistan) 1634 

CONCLUSION by the Editor, M.M.Sharif 1656 

INDEX 1663 


(From the Fall of Baghdad [656/1258] to 1111/1700) 
Part 1. The Fall of BaghdSd 

Chapter XL 

The Mongol invasion which shook the world of Islam to its very foundations 
in the seventh/thirteenth century was an unprecedented phenomenon in the 
history of mankind. A people, hitherto unknown even to their neighbours, 
poured forth from the bare and bleak plateau of Karakorum (Mongolis) and 
with lightning speed overran the Asian and European continents from China 
to Hungary and East Prussia, and built up the largest empire known to man, 
These people were the Mongols 1 or Tartars as called by their contemporaries. 
Their invasion inflicted more suffering on the human race than any other 
incident recorded in history. They lived in a wild and primitive state of 
society. "They are," says Matthew Paris, "inhuman and beastly, rather 
monsters than men, thirsty for and drinking blood, tearing and devouring the 
flesh of dogs and men. . . . They are without human laws. 1 ' 2 

The Mongol storm burst on the Muslim world in two separate waves. The 
first dates back to 616/1219 when Chingiz Khan 3 (550/1155-625/1227), who 
first as the leader of a band of adventurers and later installed as their ruler 
in 603/1206 welded these barbarians into a strong and well-disciplined military 
force, attacked the Empire of the Khwarizm Shahs (470/1077-629/1231) which 
at the height of its power stretched from the Ural Mountains to the Persian 
Gulf and from the Euphrates to the Indus excluding the two Iranian pro- 
vinces of Khuzistan and Fars. The second wave broke on Khurasan in 654/ 
1256 when Chingiz Khan's grandson, Hulagu Khan (614/1217-664/1265), was 
selected by his brother, Emperor Mangu Khan (649/1251-655/1257), and the 

1 The word is derived from the root mong which means brave. 

2 E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, Vol. Ill, p. 7. 

3 His actual name was Temuchin. The title of Chingiz or Zingis Khan was 
presented to him by his people in recognition of his rising power. The word zin 
means great, gls is the superlative termination. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

great quriltay, i.e., the Mongol national assembly, held in 649/1251 , to annihilate 
the 'Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad and the Isma'ilis of Alamut and Qiihistan 
in North Iran. 

The first invasion, which probably could not have been averted, was provoked 
by a frontier incident in which the Governor of Utrar, 4 a frontier town in 
Khwarizm, murdered a number of Mongol tradesmen alleged to have been 
spies. Thereupon Chingiz Khan despatched an embassy consisting of two 
Mongols and one Turk to the Court of 'Ala al-Dln Muhammad Khwarizm Shah 
(596/1199-617/1220) to protest against this violation of the laws of hospitality 
and demanded that he should hand over the Governor to them or prepare for 
war. In reply Khwarizm Shah behaved in a queer fashion which was both 
foolish and arrogant. He killed the Turk and turned back the two Mongols 
with their beards shaved off. Upon this the Mongols held a quriltay and decided 
to attack Khwarizm. 

This is not the only evidence of Khwarizm Shah's suicidal policy. According 
to the contemporary historian, ibn Athlr (d. 632/1234), 'Ala al-Din Muhammad 
had already destroyed or weakened the neighbouring Muslim States in order 
to build up an unstable, sprawling empire, so that in the dark hour of trial 
when, instead of showing any signs of resistance, he adopted the ignominious 
course of continued retreat, and left his unfortunate subjects at the mercy of 
the relentless enemy, there was no Muslim power left to protect or defend them. 
His gallant son, Jalal al-Din Mankoburni (617/1220-629/1231), however, put 
up stiff resistance against the full might of the Mongol attack and for years 
continued to show acts of great heroism in unequal battles till, unaided and 
deserted, he met his tragic end. By his desperate and indomitable courage 
against the Mongol blast of death, this dauntless prince has left a permanent 
mark of gallantry in the annals of Muslim history. 

A big factor which hastened the Muslim downfall was the atmosphere of 
intrigue prevailing in the Muslim world on the eve of the Mongol invasion. 
According to ibn Athir and al-Maqrlzi (766/1364-846/1442), the 'Abbasid 
Caliph al-Nasir (576/1180-622/1225) actually encouraged the Mongols to attack 
Khwarizm, little knowing that his own house was destined to perish at the 
hands of the same irresistible foe. 

The storm burst in 616/1219 and soon engulfed Transoxiana, Khwarizm, 
Khurasan, the territories lying north of the river Indus, and North Iran, till, 
instead of turning south or west, it swept across the Caucasus into South 
Russia, finally to advance as far away as the Baltic and the Adriatic. 

The second wave of invasion struck Khurasan in the beginning of 654/1256; 
the Caliphate of Baghdad was destroyed in 656/1258 by Hulagu Khan who 
had earlier wiped out the Isma'ili stronghold at Alamut in North Iran in 
654/1256. The Mongol army advanced further into Syria, sacked Aleppo, and 
threatened Damascus into surrender in 659/1260. It was at 'Ain Jalut (Goliath's 

1 Also known as Farab. 

Fall of the 'Abbasid Caliphate 

Spring) near Nazareth, however, that the Mongol tide was firmly stemmed by 
the gallant Mamluks of Egypt who gave them a crushing defeat in 659/1260. 
After the death of Jalal al-Din Mankoburni this was the first Muslim victory 
in thirty years and it broke the spell of the Mongol invincibility. 

The Mongols were essentially an engine of destruction. They mowed down 
all resistance and their opponents "fell to the right and left like the leaves of 
winter." They have been described by Sir Henry Howorth as one of those 
races "which are sent periodically to destroy the luxurious and the wealthy, 
to lay in ashes the arts and culture which grow under the shelter of wealth 
and easy circumstances." 5 According to 'Ata Malik Juwaini, Hulagu Khan's 
secretary, who was appointed Governor of Baghdad after the destruction of 
the 'Abbasid Caliphate, Chingiz Khan described himself at Bukhara as the 
"scourge of God" sent to men as a punishment for their great sins. 6 

The bewildering extent of the blood-thirsty ferocity, insatiable thirst for 

massacre, and devastating destruction which brought unprecedented suffering 

for the greater portion of the civilized world, would be just impossible to 

' believe, had the facts not been confirmed from different sources, both Eastern 

and Western. 

All historians agree that wherever the Mongols went they exterminated 
populations, pillaged towns and cities, wreaked special vengeance upon those 
who dared to resist them, converted rich and smiling fields into deserts, and 
left behind the smoke of burning towns. In the words of Chingiz Khan him- 
self, quoted by Rashid al-Din Fadl Allah, the famous Prime Minister of the 
Mongol period in Iran and the author of Jdmi' al-Taioarikh, 7 "the greatest 

5 Henry Howorth, History of the Mongols, Part I, p. x. 

6 'Ata Malik Juwaini, Tarijch-i Jahankuska, Vol. I, ed. Muhammad 'Abd al- 
Wahhab Qazwini, Leiden, 1329/1911, p. 81. 

'Ala al-Din 'Ata Malik Juwaini (d. 682/1283) who belonged to a distinguished 
family of ministers and administrators was one of those Iranian officers whom the 
Mongols found indispensable in the civil service. He was Hulagu Khan's secretary 
and had served him throughout his campaign. He was appointed Governor of 
Baghdad by Hulagu Khan a year after the conquest of the city and held this 
position for twenty-four years. His famous book which was completed in 658/1260 
contains a first-hand account of Hulagu Khan's military exploits and is one of 
the most authentic books on the history of this period. It deals with the Mongols, 
the Khwarizm §hahs, and the Isma'ili sect and ends with the events of the year 

7 Rashid al-Din Fadl Allah (645/1247-718/1318), the renowned scholar-adminis- 
trator of the Il-Khani (Mongol) period of the history of Iran, served as Prime 
Minister under three Muslim Mongol rulers, namely, Qhazan (694/1294^703/1303) 
who, along with ten thousand Mongols, embraced Islam on gha'ban 4, 694 A.H., 
and by declaring it the State religion restored its supremacy in Iran; Uljaitu 
Khuda-bandeh (703/1303-716/1316); and abu Sa'id (716/1316-736/1335). In spite 
of his preoccupations as the Prime Minister of a great empire, Rashid al-Din found 
time to pursue research and write books, both in Arabic and Persian. Of these 
his Jdmi' cti-Tawarikh, which, in the words of Quatremere, the French editor of 
portions of this work, "offered for the first time to the people of Asia a complete 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

joy is to conquer one's enemies, to pursue them, to see their families in tears, 
to ride their horses, and to possess their daughters and wives." In old Mongol 
traditions there is a story that the future world conqueror was born with a 
piece of clotted blood in his hands. 8 The senseless destruction, cruelty, outrage, 
spoliation, and the lightning speed of the Mongol attack have been described 
by Juwaini in the pithy sentence uttered by a fugitive from Merv: "They 
came, they uprooted, they burned, they slew, they carried off, they departed." 9 
To have an idea of the brutal lust of conquest and ruthless ferocity shown 
by the Mongol hordes it would suffice to trace the wanton disregard of human 
life shown by them in some of the many prosperous cities and towns they 
ravaged. They reduced to ashes the city of Bukhara which was known for its 
magnificent palaces, gardens, and parks stretching for miles on the banks of 
the river Sughd; put one million people to the sword in Samarqand; and 
brutally massacred all the inhabitants of Tirmidh and Sabziwar. Khwarizm 
suffered an equally tragic fate. According to Juwaini, 1,200,000 persons were 
killed in the city. Amongst the scholars and saints who perished was the 
famous Shaikh Najm al-Dln Kubra (d. 618/1221). In Balkh the Mongol army 
came back a few days after the city's destruction to kill the poor wretches 
who might have survived the first holocaust, and, having dragged them out 
of the hiding-places, butchered them in the true Mongol fashion. Bamiyan, 
where a Mongol prince lost his life, was wiped out of existence, and orders were 
issued not to leave even babes alive in their mothers' wombs. This kind of 
sadism was not a stray incident, for ibn Athir charaterizes the Mongols as a 
people who "spared none, slaying women, men, and children, ripping open 
pregnant women and killing unborn babes." 10 At Nasa they made a hecatomb 
of over 70,000 people. Merv, which was at the height of its glory, suffered, 
according to ibn Athir, a loss of 700,000 persons, but Juwaini puts the figure 
at 1,300,000, excluding those whose bodies were hidden at obscure retreats. 
The survivors were traced out, as in Balkh. and mercilessly killed. Nishapur, 
which was like the bright Venus in the galaxy of cities, 11 was completely 
razed to the ground and every living thing, including animals, was massacred. 
Pyramids of skulls were built as a mark of this ghastly feat of military 
"triumph." According to Mirkhwand, 1,047,000 men were butchered in the 
city in addition to an unknown number of women and children. 12 He adds, 
however, that forty artisans and craftsmen were given shelter and transported 

a of universal history and geography," is the most celebrated. Though it is 
a general history of the world, yet it contains a detailed and highly authentic 
account of the Mongol Emperors from the time of Chinglz Khan to the death of 
Sultan Ghazan. 

8 Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. I, Part 2, p. 856. 

9 Juwaini, op. cit., p. 105, 

10 E. G. Browne, op. cit.. Vol. II, p. 428. 

11 Juwaini, op. cit., p. 133. 

12 Mirkhwand, Baudot al-Saja, Vol. V, p. 46. 


Fall of the 'Abbasid Caliphate 

to Mongolia. In Herat these barbarian hordes set up a new record by putting 
1,600,000 men to the sword. 

These figures give an idea of the cold-blooded, passionless cruelty of the 
invaders who, in the words of Matthew Paris, "spared neither age, nor sex, nor 
condition." 13 Juwaini mourns the loss of life in Khurasan in the following 
words: "Not one-thousandth of the population escaped ... if from now to 
the Day of Judgment nothing hinders the growth of population in Khurasan 
and 'Iraq-i 'Ajam, it cannot reach one-tenth of the figure at which it stood 

With the destruction of the scores of cities of fame also perished the price- 
less treasures of art and literature. The letter of ibn Khallikan (608/1211- 
681/1282) which he wrote from Mosul after his flight from Merv to al-Qadi 
al-Akram Jamal al-Dln abu al- Hasan 'AM, vizier of the King of Aleppo, 
pathetically describes the nature of the Mongol cataclysm. In this letter, 
written in 617/1220, the author pays his last tribute to the libraries of Merv 
which had made him forget his dear ones, his home, and country, and to the 
advanced state of civilization in Khurasan which, according to him, "in a 
word, and without exaggeration, was a copy of paradise." He proceeds to 
laud the achievements of its doctors, saints, scholars, the monuments of 
science, and the virtues of the authors of this region and then laments the 
tragedy of Merv in these words : "Those palaces were effaced from the earth . . . 
in those places the screech-owls answer each others' cries and in those halls 
the winds moan responsive to the simoom." Ibn Athir describes the loss of 
life and culture in the same strain: "Those Tartars conquered . . . the best, 
the most flourishing, and the most populous part thereof [the habitable globe], 
and that whereof the inhabitants were the most advanced in character and 
conduct." 14 

The reckless assassination of thousands of scholars, poets, and writers, and 
the destruction of libraries and colleges wrought irreparable disaster upon 
Muslim civilization which had flourished for centuries with such remarkable 
vitality. Transoxiana and Kh urasan were the worst sufferers. Fertile plains 
and valleys in these regions were turned into wilderness. The great highways 
of Central Asia on which passed the merchandise of China to Western Asia 
and Europe also lay deserted. 

For twenty years after the death of Chinglz Khan in 625/1227, the Mongols 
continued to pillage Kurdistan, Adharbaijan, and regions to the west of 
Iran, at times marauding right up to Aleppo. But the Caliphate of Baghdad 
had survived. The inevitable occurred in 656/1258 when Hulagu Khan stormed 
Baghdad after he had extirpated the Isma'ili power at Alamut in 654/1256. 
The city which had been the metropolis of Islam for more than five centuries 
(132/749-656/1258) was given over to plunder and flame. The massacre, 

13 E. G. Browne, op. cit, Vol. Ill, p. 7. 

14 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 429. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

according to Diyarbakri (d. 982/1574) in his Tdrikh al-Khamis, continued for 
thirty-four days during which 1,800,000 persons were put to the sword. For 
days blood ran freely in the streets of Baghdad and the water of the Tigris 
was dyed red for miles. According to Wassaf, the sack of Baghdad lasted forty 
days. 15 To quote Kitab al-Fahhri, "Then there took place such wholesale 
slaughter and unrestrained looting and excessive torture and mutilation as 
it is hard to be spoken of even generally; how think you, then, its details ?" 
Al-Must'asim bi Allah (640/1242-656/1258) who was destined to be the last 
Caliph of this renowned dynasty was beaten to death, and, according to another 
version, trampled on by horses. 

The sack of Baghdad was a supreme catastrophe of the world of Islam and 
of the Arabo-Persian civilization which had flourished so richly for many 
hundred years. Its magnitude surpassed the devastation of other cities, be- 
cause the political and psychological implications of this tragedy had a far 
greater import. The Caliph was regarded as the spiritual and temporal head 
of the Muslim world and even in its days of decline the Caliphate of Baghdad 
had retained the semblance of Muslim unity and homogeneity. Baghdad, 
therefore, was more than a city. It was a symbol. With the end of the Cali- 
phate this symbol also vanished. It was also the centre of the most advanced 
civilization of the time and from it emanated the rays of knowledge which 
illuminated the world. The destruction of Baghdad, therefore, meant the 
extinction of learning. With it were destroyed the great libraries and unique 
treasures of art, philosophy, and science, accumulated through hundreds of 
years. Books were consumed to ashes or thrown into the river. Mosques, 
colleges, hospitals, and palaces were put to fire. The awful nature of the 
cataclysm which completely blocked the advancement of knowledge in Muslim 
lands, and, thus, indirectly in the whole world, is, in the words of Percy Sykes, 
"difficult to realize and impossible to exaggerate." 18 No wonder the great 
Sa'di (580/1184-691/1291) was moved to write in far-off Shiraz an elegy on 
the destruction of Baghdad and the fall of the Caliphate, which has gone 
down in Persian poetry as one of the most pathetic poems of all times. 

What deepened the sombre effects of this tragedy was the fact that, with 
the extermination of men of learning and the total destruction of Muslim 
society, the spirit of inquiry and original research so distinctly associated 
with Arabic learning was practically destroyed. Western Asia was now plunged 
into darkness as earlier Khurasan and Transoxiana had been wrapped in 
gloom. The two races— Arabs and Iranians— which together had contributed 
to the medieval world the highest literary and scientific culture parted ways. 
For centuries Arabic had been the language of religion, science, and philo- 
sophy in Iran, and all thinkers and scientists had chosen Arabic as the vehicle 
of expressing their thoughts. But henceforth Arabic lost its position of pri- 

■ 'Abd Allah ibn Fadl Allah Wassaf, Tanhh-i Wassaf, p. 87. 
5 Percy Sykes, A History of Persia, Vol. II, p. 98. 

Fall of the 'Abbasid Caliphate 

vilege and its use was restricted mostly to the field of theology and scholastic 
learning. The Arabs themselves lost even the shadow of a major role in 
Islamic history. The fall of Baghdad, therefore, was also an ominous sign of 
the loss of Arab hegemony. 

The Mongol invasion by its accumulated horror and scant respect for human 
life and moral values produced an attitude of self-negation and renunciation 
in general and in Persian poetry in particular. The pantheistic philosophy of 
ibn ' Arabi henceforth made a strong appeal to the minds of subsequent mystics 
such as Auhadi Kirmani, Auhadi of Maraghah, and Jami. 

The infinite havoc caused by this cataclysm constitutes a melancholy 
chapter in the history of Muslim civilization. What Juwaini had called the 
famine of science and virtue in Khurasan 17 came true of all lands stretching 
from Transoxiana to the shores of the Mediterranean. Never, perhaps, had 
such a great and glorious civilization been doomed to such a tragic fall. This 
tragic fall was not, however, a tragic end, for this civilization rose again and 
produced within two centuries and a half three of the greatest empires of the 
world, and though the main current of its thought changed its course, even 
before, and long before, its political recovery, it produced the world's first 
destroyer of Aristotle's logic in ibn Taimiyyah and the first sociologist and 
philosopher of history in ibn Khaldun. 


Ameer Ali, A Short History of the Saracens, London, 1951; E. G. Browne, 
A Literary History of Persia, Cambridge,l 951 ; Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. XV, 
London; Rashld al-Dln Fadl Allah, Jami' al-Tawarikh, Vol. II, ed. Bahman Mirza 
Karimi, Teheran, 1313 A.H.; P. K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, New York, 1956; 
M. Th. Houtsma, T. W. Arnold, R. Basset, R. Hartmann et aU, Eds., Encyclopaedia 
of Islam, Vol. I, Part 2, Leiden; Henry Howorth, History of the Mongols, London, 
1876; 'Abbas Iqbal, Tdrikh-i Mufassal-i Iran, Vol. I, Teheran, 1312 A.H.; 'Afca 
Malik Juwaini, Tdrikh-i Jahdnkusha, Vol. I, ed. Muhammad 'Abd al-WahMb 
Qazwini, Leiden, 1329/1911; Muhammad bin Kbawand ghah Mirkhwand, Baudot 
al-Safa, Vol. V, Bombay, 1261 A.H.; R. A. Nicholson, A Literary History of 'the 
Arabs, Cambridge, 1953; 'Abd Allah Razi, Tdrikh-i Mufassal-i Iran, Teheran, 1375 
A.H.; Percy Sykes, A History of Persia, Vol. II, London, 1921; 'Abd Allah ibn 
Fadl Allah Wassaf, Tarikh-i Wassaf, Vol. I, ed. Muhammad Iqbal, Lahore, 1927. 

17 Juwaini, op. cit., p. 4. 

Part 2. Theologico-Philosophical Thought 

Chapter XLI 


After having seen the rise and development of theological and philosophical 
movement in Islam and the contributions made by the theologians and philo- 
sophers before the sack of Baghdad, we have now come to a point which may 
be called the pre-renaissance period in the history of Islam. By ibn Taimiy- 
yah's time theology, philosophy, and jurisprudence had made remarkable 
progress and given rise to different schools of thought. But, unfortunately, 
political dissensions and doctrinal differences sapped the unity of the Muslims 
and made their countries easy prey to Mongol invasions in the seventh/ 
thirteenth century. It was at this critical juncture that Imam ibn Taimlyyah 
appeared as a mujtahid (one qualified to form an independent opinion in 
Muslim Law) and called upon the people to go back to the original teachings 
of Islam as they are found in the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet. He 
had little respect for theology (Katem) or philosophy, and he could not be 
called a theologian or a philosopher in the truest sense of the terms, though 
he himself acted as a great theologian and a great philosopher. The excellence 
of Imam ibn Taimlyyah as an original thinker and a critic has been widely 
accepted, and he is generally considered to be the forerunner of Wahhabism, 
Sanfisism, and similar other reform movements in the Muslim world. 

Taqi al-Dln abu al- 'Abbas Ahmad ibn 'Abd al-Halim, commonly known as 
ibn Taimlyyah, was born in Harran, 1 a city near Damascus, on Monday, the 
10th of RabI' I 661/22nd January 1263. 

During the year 667/1269 when ibn Taimlyyah reached the age of seven, 
the Mongols ravaged the city of Harran, and his father 'Abd al-Halim came 
to Damascus with all the members of his family and settled there. Here ibn 
Taimlyyah received excellent education under his father who was a great 
scholar of the Hanbalite school. He also studied under 'Ali ibn 'Abd al-Qawi 
and mastered the Arabic grammar of Sibawaihi. He studied Hadith with more 

1 A place famous for its Hanbalite school. Here lived the Sabeans and the 
philosophers who worshipped the heavenly bodies and images after their names. 
The Prophet Moses was sent to these people for their guidance. See MEK, Vol. I, 
pp. 425 et sq. 


Ibn Taimlyyah 

than two hundred Shaikhs. 2 It is noteworthy that among the teachers, whom 
ibn Taimlyyah mentions in his Arba'iin, were four ladies. 3 

It is difficult to say whether ibn Taimiyyah was influenced by any of his 
predecessors in his extraordinary enthusiasm for introducing social and religious 
reforms in the Muslim community and for his unsympathetic attitude towards 
the theologians, the philosophers, and the Sufis. A close examination of his 
works suggests that he followed none but the early pious Muslims (salaf al- 
sdlifyun) in formulating his scheme of reform. This is why his movement is 
often called the Salafi movement. His motto was, "Go back to the Qur'an and 
the Sunnah of the Prophet." He protested vehemently against all sorts of inno- 
vations (bid'ah). He believed that Islam was corrupted by Sufism, pantheism, 
theology (Kalam), philosophy, and by all sorts of superstitious beliefs. He 
aimed at purging the Muslim society of practices resulting in undue homage to 
the tombs of prophets and saints. During his stay in Syria from 692/1292 to 
705/1305, ibn Taimiyyah, therefore, wrote books and treatises against the 
Sufis, the Mutakallimfin, and the Aristotelian philosophers. It was during the 
early part of this period that he personally took part in the war against the 
Tartars and the Nusairis. In 702/1302, he participated in the battle of Shaqhab 
(a place near Damascus) where he met Caliph al-Malik al-Nasir, Muhammad 
ibn Qalawiin, the Mamluk Sultan, and other notables, and urged them all to 
join the holy war. Towards the end of 704/1304, he led an army against 
the people of Jabal Khusruwan in Syria and inflicted a crushing defeat on 
them. Hence, ibn Taimlyyah can also be called a mujdfiid (fighter for the 
cause of Islam). In 705/1305, ibn Taimiyyah faced the criticism of his 
antagonists in open meetings in the presence of the Deputy of the Mamluk 
Sultan, al-Malik al-Nasir, and defeated them by his clear and cogent arguments. 
In this very year he proceeded to Cairo and faced a imindzarah (legal debate) 
in which an Indian scholar named Shaikh Safi al-Dln al-Hindi played an 
important part. It was on the suggestion of this Shaikh that ibn Taimiy- 
yah was ordered to be imprisoned in the dungeon of the mountain citadel 
with his two brothers for a year and a half. 4 He also suffered imprisonment 
at different places for his fatwds (legal decisions) and rasa'il (treatises) against 
certain social and religious practices; these excited the indignation of the 
scholars of his time, till at last he was interned in the citadel of Damascus in 
Sha'ban 726/July 1326. Here his brother Zain al-Dln was permitted to stay 
with him, while ibn Taimlyyah's pupil ibn Qayyim al- Jauziyyah was detained 
in the same prison for his support. In this prison, ibn Taimlyyah wrote books 
and pamphlets defending his own views, and it is said that here he prepared 
a commentary on the Holy Qur'an in forty volumes called al-Bahr al-Muklt. 

2 Fawat, Vol. I, p. 35. 

3 Arba'un, pp. 34-36. 

4 Subki, Tabaqat, Vol. V, p. 240, s. v. Muhammad 'Abd al-Rahim ibn Muhammad 
al- Shaikh Safi al-Dln al-Hindi, born in India in 644/1246 and died at Damascus 
in 715/1315, ten years after the munazarah held in Cairo. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Some of these books fell into the hands of his enemies and he was most ruthlessly 
deprived of his books, and pen and ink, after which he wrote with charcoal. 
Having been left alone in the prison, he passed his time in devotion to God 
till his death on Monday, the 20th of Dhu al-Qa'dah 728/27th September 1328. 5 

Ibn Taimiyyah was a prolific writer. Nobody could give a definite number of 
his works though al-Kutubi tried to enumerate them under different heads. 6 
He left innumerable books, religious decisions, letters, and notes, most of 
which he composed while he was in prison. Al-Dhahabi gives the number of 
ibn Taimlyyah's books to be approximately five hundred. 

In his Bihlah, ibn Battutah says that he himself happened to be in Damascus 
at the time of the last imprisonment of ibn Taimiyyah, and that the Sultan 
al-Malik al-Nasir released ibn Taimiyyah after the completion of al-Bahr 
al-Muhlt, but on a Friday, while he was delivering the Jum'ah sermon on the 
pulpit of the city mosque, he uttered the following words: "Verily, Allah 
comes down to the sky over our heads in the same fashion as I make this 
descent," and he stepped down one step of the pulpit. This was vehemently 
opposed by a faqlh (jurist), but ibn Taimiyyah had his supporters who attacked 
the faqih and beat him severely with fists and shoes, causing his turban to 
fall down on the ground and making his silken shashia (cap) visible on his 
head. People objected to his wearing the silken cap and brought him to the 
house of the Hanbalite Qadi 'Izz al-Din ibn Muslim, who ordered him to be 
. imprisoned and put to torture. But the Maliki and the Shafi'i doctors dis- 
approved of this judgment, and brought the case to the notice of Saif al-Din 
Tankiz, one of the best and most pious nobles of Damascus, who forwarded the 
matter to al-Malik al-Nasir along with some other charges against ibn Taimiy- 
yah, such as his decision (fativa) that a woman divorced by triple repudiation 
in one utterance will receive one talaq only and that one taking the journey 
to the tomb of the Prophet should not shorten his prayers. The Sultan, con- 
vinced of these charges, disapproved of ibn Taimlyyah's standpoint and 
ordered him to be thrown into the dungeon again.' This report of ibn Battutah 
is not chronologically sound. It will be discussed again in connection with the 
charge of anthropomorphism against ibn Taimiyyah. 

Though ibn Taimiyyah was not successful in his mission during his life- 
time, it became clear at his funeral that he exercised a great influence upon 
the public. It is said that more than two lacs of men and women attended 
his funeral ceremony. Except three persons who were afraid of being stoned 
to death for their hostility towards him, all attended his funeral and the 
military had to be called in to guard the crowd. 8 

5 Fawat, Vol. I, p. 141; Rihlah, Vol. I, p. 216; Majallah, Vol. XXVII, Part II, 
p. 196. 

6 Faivat, Vol. I, pp. 42 et sqq. 
* Bihlah, Vol. I, p. 217. 

« Majallah, Vol. XXVII, Part II, p. 193; Fmvat, Vol. I, p. 41. 

Ibn Taimiyyah 



Ibn Taimiyyah has left us a number of books and treatises on theology, 
but in none of them is he systematic in his treatment of the subject. Problems 
of theology and philosophy are scattered throughout his writings, and, 
according to al-Kutubi's enumeration, many of them have not yet seen the 
light of the day. 9 A number of manuscripts left by ibn Taimiyyah on theology 
are also available in England and Germany among which are his Mas'alat 
al-'Uluw, al-Kaldm, 'ala Haqiqat al-Islam w-al-Imdn, Su'dl li Ibn Taimiy- 
yah, 10 etc., etc. 

In his Minhaj 11 as well as other books, ibn Taimiyyah boldly declares that 
theology and philosophy have no place in Islam, and that theologians like 
al-Juwaini, 13 al-Ghazali. and al-Sfeahrastani 13 who devoted their lives to these 
sciences, ultimately understood their defects and returned to the Qur'an and 
the Sunnah. Shahrastani. he adds, confessed that it was folly to discuss 
theology; al-Razi, in his opinion, contradicts himself in matters of theology 
and admitted his perplexity. 

In the Minhaj 1 * as well as in his Majmu'at al-Tafslr, 15 ibn Taimiyyah cites 
the opinion of Imam Ahmad and abu Yiisuf who said that he who would 
seek knowledge by the help of scholastic theology (Kaldm) would turn into 
an atheist. He also mentions the opinion of Imam Shafi'i that theologians 
should be beaten with shoes and palm-branches, and paraded through the 
city so that people may know the consequence of the study of theology. 

In his Tafsir Surat al-IkMds, 1 * he tells us that the early leaders (asldf) 
tabooed theology since it was vanity, falsehood, and saying unfitting things 
about God. 

Among the later thinkers Imam Ash'ari (d. 330/941) defended theology in 
his Risalah fi Istihsan al-Khaud fi al-Kaldm. In it, he supported the theories 
of harakah (motion), sukun (rest), jism (body), 'ard (accident), ijtima' (union), 
iftiraq (separation), etc., by the help of the Qur'an. In his opinion, all religious 
orders, be they relating to action or belief, have been based on rational argu- 
ments and, thus, it is not unlawful to enter into discussion with them. 17 But 

Al-Kutubi, Fawat, loc. cit. 

This treatise has been edited by Serajul Haque in J ASP, Vol. II, 1957. 

M. Sunnah, Vol. Ill, pp. 68 et sqq. 

Imam al-ljaramain a bu al-Ma'ali 'Abd al-Malik ibn Yiisuf (d. 478/1085), the 

theologian of the fifth/eleventh century. 
Abu al-Fath Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Karim (d. 469/1076). 
M. Sunnah, Vol. I, p. 181. 
M. Tafsir, pp. 387 et sq. 
Ibid., pp. 62 et sq. 
Ash'ari, Istihsan al-Khaud, Hyderabad, 1323/1905. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

ibn Taimiyyah considered the above theories to be Hellenistic and against 
the Qur'an and the Sunnah. 

About the Jahmites, 18 ibn Taimiyyah quotes the views of Imam. Ahmad 
who said that they told untruths about God when they denied attributes to 
Him, and spoke about Him through ignorance. Abu al- 'Abbas ibn Suraij, he 
adds, disapproved of the theories of atoms and accidents. Once, in answer to a 
question raised in Kaldm, he said, "The doctrine of the unity of God to the 
vain people is to enter into the discussion of atoms and accidents (jawahir wa 
a'rad)." These terms did not exist in Islam during the time of the Prophet. 
It was the Jahmites and the Mu'tazilites who first invented them; Ja'd ibn 
Dirham 19 was mainly responsible for this invention. This Ja'd was executed 
by ibn 'Abd Allah ibn al-Qasri ao at Wasit on account of his Kaldm {theology). 
The story goes that before executing Ja'd, ibn 'Abd Allah stood on a pulpit 
(minbar) and addressed the people saying, "0 men, offer your sacrifice to 
God. Surely I am offering my victim in the person of Ja'd who says that God 
did not take Abraham as His friend, nor did He speak to Moses. God is far 
above what Ja'd attributes to Him." He then got down from the pulpit and 
cut off Ja'd's head. 21 

Ibn Taimiyyah refutes the views of al-Imam Hilli who expressed in his 
Minhaj al-Karamah Z2 that Hadrat 'Ali was the originator of theology. Ibn 
Taimiyyah opposes this theory as 'Ali could not go against the Qur'an and 
the Sunnah, and none among the Companions (Sahabah) or their followers 
(Tabi'un) ever discussed the phenomenal nature of the world as derived 
from the origination of bodies (hudHth al-ajsam). He repeats that theology 
came into existence at the end of the first/seventh century. It was Ja'd ibn 
Dirham and Jahm ibn Safwan who introduced it, and eventually the pupils 
of 'Amr ibn 'Ubaid like abu al-Hudhail al-'Allaf and others carried it on. 
The object of 'Amr and Wasil in propagating the above theory was to intro- 
duce into Islam the idea that God's power is not unlimited and that sinners 
will abide in hell for ever. 23 

From the foregoing statements, it is evident that ibn Taimiyyah generally 
uses Kalam in its pre-Ash'arite sense of Mu'tazilite theology, though later he 
does not spare the Ash'arite views either. 

Let us now discuss the divine attributes with reference to ibn Taimiyyah's 
refutation of the Jahmite and the Mu'tazilite views. 

According to ibn Taimiyyah, it was Ja'd ibn Dirham, a Jahmite, who first 

professed that "God is not seated on His Throne," and that istiwa' means 

18 The loader of this group Jahm ibn Safwan, was put to death at Merv in 

128/745 for his heretical doctrines. Baghdadi, Farq, p. 19; §hahrastani, Vol. I, 

p. 60; Bukhari in the last book of his Sahlh refutes the Jahmite views. 

i» Mizan, Vol. I, p. 185, No. 1443; ibn Hajar, Lisan, Vol. II, p. 105, No. 427. 
so Khalid ibn 'Abd Allah (66-126/685-743). 
« Ihhlas, p. 63; Ba'labakkiyah, p. 392. 

22 Fol. 58/B. IOL. Loth. 471. 

23 M. Sunnah, Vol. IV, pp. 144 et sqq. 

Ibn Taimiyyah 

istaula," that is, God is the master of His Throne and not that "He is settled 
on it." This idea was then taken up by Jahm ibn Safwan (d. 128/745). Conse- 
quently, a new system of scriptural interpretation became popular at the close 
of the second/eighth century at the hand of Bishr ibn Ghiyath al-Marisi (d.218 
or 219/833 or 834) and his followers. 24 The Mu'tazilite doctrine of divine, attri- 
butes was publicly preached during the last part of the third/ninth century 28 
and then the Shi'ite doctors, Mufid, 28 Musawi, 27 and Tusi, 28 adopted it. 

The beliefs that God is eternal and that "He exists without His attributes" 
are dogmas of the Jahmites and the Mu'tazilites. In regard to God's knowledge, 
power, seeing, hearing, etc., the older ultra- Imami sect was downright anthropo- 
morphist, while subsequent generations went further and denied the existence 
of all divine attributes. 29 The Karramites, 30 in his opinion, were anthropo- 
morphists. The Sunnites were unanimous in declaring that God was totally 
unlike men in His essence, qualities, and actions. The traditionists, the herme- 
neutists, the Sufis, the four jurists and their followers, never believed in 
anthropomorphism. The accusation that has been levelled at jurists like Malik, 
Shafi'i, Ahmad, and their followers, is based on sheer misunderstanding. These 
jurists in affirming the divine attributes never maintained that these attributes 
resembled bodily forms. 31 

Ibn Taimiyyah further maintains that the word qadlm (eternal) relating to 
God, on which the Jahmites and their followers base their arguments, has not 
received a place among His asmd' al-husna {beautiful names) though the word 
awwal (first) is one of them. Awwal does not signify that God alone exists 
without His attributes from eternity and pre-existenee. The attributes that 
are always associated with God indicate only one God. The Sunnites do not 
maintain that God's eternity needs some additional eternal essence. The 
statement that the divine attributes are additional to His essence (dhat) is 
to be taken in the sense that they are additional to the concept of the essence 
held by the nufat (deniers of God's qualities) and not in the sense that 
there is in God an essence denuded of attributes and the attributes are 
separate from and additional to the essence. 38 For example, whenever an 
attribute is attached to a locus (makatt), its relation is established with the 
object itself and not with anything else. When a thing, associated with black- 
ness and whiteness, is set in motion, it is sure to move with those qualities 
alone and not with anything else. God, to whom are attributed speech, volition, 

34 MRK, Vol. I, pp. 425 et sq. 

25 M .^Sunnah, Vol. J. p. 172. 

26 Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Nu'man al-Muffd {336-413/947-1022), 
teacher of al-Tusi. 

27 Sharif al-Rida' a] -Musawi, Yaqut, Vol. V, p. 174. 

28 Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn 'Ali al-Tusi (d. 460/1067). 

29 M. Sunnah, Vol. I, pp. 172-74. 

30 Followers of abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Karram (d. 255/868). 

31 M. Sunnah, Vol. I, pp. 172-74. 

32 Ibid. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

love, anger, and pleasure, must actually be associated with all of them with- 
out any additional qualities that have not been ascribed to Him. One who 
is speechless, motionless or inactive cannot be called speaker (mutakattim), 
mover (mutaharrik), or doer (fa'il). So to attribute life, power, knowledge, 
etc., to God without associating them with His essence, as the Jahmites and 
their followers do, indicates that God lives without life, is powerful without 
power, and knows without knowledge, while the Qur'an and the Sunnah 
abound with proofs that God is associated with His attributes. 33 

Ibn Taimiyyah's Anthropomorphism. — From the above discussions and the 
similar contents of his al-'Aqidat al-Hamamyyat al-Kvbra, 3i people misunder- 
stood ibn Taimiyyah and suspected him to be an anthropomorphist. They 
thought that he taught, according to the literal meaning of the Qur'an and 
the Sunnah, that God has hands, feet, face, etc., and that He is settled on His 
Throne. The objection of the theologians was that if God possessed limbs and 
sat on the Throne, then He must be possessed of spatial character (tahayyuz) 
and subject to division (inqisdm). Ibn Taimiyyah refused to admit that 
"spatial character" and "divisibility" are the essence of bodies (ajsam). Ibn 
Battutah's statement that at Damascus he heard ibn Taimiyyah addressing 
the people saying, "Verily, God descends to the sky over our world (from 
heaven) in the same way as I make this descent," while he stepped down 
one step of the pulpit, is nothing but a canard. This story, as we have noticed, 35 
has been so skilfully concocted that it appears to be a real occurrence. But 
when we examine this report, we cannot believe that such a thing could have 
ever happened during the visit of ibn Battiitah to Damascus. Ibn Battiitah, 
as we understand from his own description, entered Damascus on 19th 
Ramadan 726/23rd August 1326, whereas ibn Taimiyyah had been imprisoned 
more than a month earlier (on the 6th of Sha'ban of the same year) without 
being allowed to come out before his death in 726/1328. 36 In his al-'Aqidat 
al-Tadmuriyyah, 37 ibn Taimiyyah clearly states, "Whoever considers God to 
be similar to the body of men or an originated thing to be similar to Him, 
is telling untruth about God. He who maintains that God is not a body and 
means by it that no originated thing is similar to Him is right, though the 
word body (jism) as applied here is an innovation (bid'ah)." He further 
says that we should say of God what He has said of Himself or what the 
Prophet has said about Him, and declares that the early Muslims ascribed 
to God attributes "without asking how" (bila half), and without drawing 
analogy (tamthil), or making alterations (tahrlf), or divesting Him of his 

33 Ibid., p. 178. 

** See MRK, Vol. I. 

35 Supra, p. 798. 

36 See the article by Bahjat al-Baitar in MajaUah Majma' al-'Ilm al-'Arabi, 
Damascus, Vol. XXVII, Part III, p. 411. 

« MS. Berl. No. 1995, fol. 54(b). 


Ibn Taimiyyah 

attributes (ta'til), zs Ibn Taimiyyah believes in "God's settling Himself on 
His Throne" as it befits Him, without any resemblance to human action. He 
quotes the opinion of the early Muslims who stood between ta'til and tamthil. 39 

The above evidence clearly shows that in his interpretation of the divine 
attributes, ibn Taimiyyah attempted rather to guard himself against the 
charge of anthropomorphism. While refuting the Jahmite and the Mu'tazilite 
conception of the divine attributes, he vehemently opposed their views which 
divested God of the Qur'anic expressions of face, hands, etc., as understood 
by the Arabs and attempted to substitute the usual meanings of these 
expressions by metaphorical interpretations. In his opinion, it would be absurd 
to suppose that the later generations should have had a deeper insight into 
and a better understanding of the divine attributes than the Prophet and his 
Companions who never attempted to explain them in terms of philosophy. 
It is for this reason that he attacked the theologians who attached the highest 
value to human reason as a criterion for understanding the divine attributes. 
Unlike other European scholars, H. Laoust is also of the opinion that the 
charge of anthropomorphism against ibn Taimiyyah is incompatible with his 
methodology and with "the positive content of his theodicy." 40 

Al- Qur'an Kaldm Allah Ghair Makkluq (The Holy Qur'an is the Uncreated 
Word of God). — With regard to this problem, ibn Taimiyyah not only accuses 
a section of people of maintaining that the Qur'an is created, but goes a step 
further and interprets the words gkair makhffiq (uncreated) as eternal (qadim). 
He considers this an innovation (bid'ah) which resulted from their contro- 
versies with the Mu'tazilites and Kullabites in defining the uncreatedness of 
the Qur'an. Such a theory was unknown to the early Muslims. It was Ja'd 
ibn Dirham along with Jahm ibn Safwan who first introduced the heretical 
theory that the Qur'an is created, whereas it is the Word of God, and so 
is uncreated. 41 

Wahi (Revelation). — Ibn Taimiyyah admits the commonly accepted view 
as to the three forms of revelation received by the Prophet : received (i) in 
a waking state as well as in dreams, (ii) from behind a veil, and (iii) through 
an angel. 48 But to these he adds a fourth, namely, revelation common to all 
(al-wahi al-mushtarak), prophets and others. This he derives from a saying 
of 'Ubadah ibn Samit and from the verses in the Qur'an which speak of reve- 
lation to people other than prophets; 43 for example, God speaks with His 
servants in their dreams. It is this common revelation which the philosophers 
like ibn Slna and others are said to have gained. But he emphatically 

38 Ibid., fol. 2(a); MRK, Vol. I, p. 428. 

39 MRK, Vol. I, pp. 428-29. 

40 H. Laoust, Qudques opinions sur la theodicee d'Ibn Taimiya, Memoires 
publics, Cairo, 1937, Vol. LXIII, pp. 431-43. 

41 Jawab, pp. 74-87. 

42 Qur'an, xlii, 50. 

43 Ibid., v, 3; xxviii, 6. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

denies that Aristotle had any share in prophecy. His contemporaries were 
worshippers of planets and were unaware of the prophets like Abraham or 
Moses. Unlike Empedocles, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato who believed 
at least in the origination (huduth) of the celestial spheres, Aristotle professed 
"the doctrine of the eternity of the heavens," which, according to ibn Taimly- 
yah, clearly shows that he had no share of wahi al-mushtarak, mentioned 
above. 44 


In his refutation of Aristotelian metaphysics and logic, ibn Taimlyyah left 
the following independent books in addition to what he wrote against them 
in many other writings: — 

1. Kitab al-Radd 'ala al-Mantiqiyyin, edited by 'Abd al-Samad Sharaf al- 
Din al-Kutubi, Bombay, 1949. 

2. Bayan Muwdfiqat Sank al-Ma'qul li Sahih al-Manqul on the margin of 
Minhaj al-Sunnah, 4 Vols., Cairo, 1321/1903. 

3. Naqd al-Mantiq, edited by Shaikh Muhammad Hamid al-Faqqi, Cairo, 
1370/1951. « 

4. Al-Radd 'ala Falsafat-i Ibn Rushd published at the end of Fad al-Maqal 
and al-Kashf of Ibn Rushd, Cairo, n.d. 

5. Kitab al-'Aql w-al-Naql on the margin of his Minhaj al-Sunnah, Cairo, 

His Tafsir Sural al-lhhlas (Cairo, 1323/1905) also sheds sufficient light on 
his views on philosophy and theology. 

Ibn Taimlyyah is not the first man to speak against the unsoundness of 
Aristotelian philosophy. In his Kitab al-Radd 'ala al-Mantiqiyyin, ibn Taimly- 
yah mentions that Hasan ibn Miisa al-Naubakhti, under whom Thabit ibn 
Qurrah and others translated Greek sciences, had written his Kitab al-Ard" 
w-al-Diyanah pointing out the fallacies of Aristotle. Moreover, Hibat Allah 
ibn 'Ali abu Barakat, a courtier of Mustanjid bi Allah, left a book on the 
refutation of Aristotle's philosophy. 46 The famous Muslim physician and philo- 
sopher abuZakariyah al-Razi (d.c. 313/925) was a great opponent of Aristotle's 
philosophy and supported Pythagoras. In his opinion, Aristotle "had not 
only ruined philosophy but had also perverted its very principles." Ibn Hazm 
of Andalus (d. 456/1063) and the Mu'tazilite al-Nazzam (d. 231/845) were 

44 See Serajul Haque, "A Letter of Ibn Taimiyya to Abu al-Fida" in Dokumenta 
Islamica Inedita, Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 1952, pp. 155 et sqq. 

4i This is perhaps identical with No. 1. 

46 Cf. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadawi, "Muslims and Greek Schools of Philosophy," 
Islamic Culture, Hyderabad Deccan, Vol. I, p. 87. 


Ibn Taimlyyah 

also against the philosophy of Aristotle. Abu 'Ali al- Jubba'i (d. 303/915) left 
a book in refutation of Aristotle's book De generatione et de corruptione.* 7 

In his Kitab al-'Aql w-al-Naql, ibn Taimlyyah says, "Look at the followers 
of Aristotle! They are following him blindly, while many of them know full 
well that their master's theories are wrong. Still it is their pious belief which 
prevents them from refuting them in spite of the fact that many wise men 
have proved that there are undeniable and indubitable errors in his logical 
system, and they support them only for the reason that they are associated 
with his name. In metaphysics also Aristotle and his followers have committed 
blunders." 48 

In his Kitab al-Radd 'ala al-Mantiqiyyin,** ibn Taimlyyah says that, accord- 
ing to Aristotelian logic, knowledge is of two kinds, namely, based on concept 
(tasawwur) and that on judgment (tasdiq), both of which are either immediate 
(badihi) or mediate (nazari). It is evident that all kinds of knowledge cannot 
be immediate or self-evident. Similarly, all kinds of knowledge cannot be 
mediate or acquired as in that case, to gain the knowledge of a mediate 
concept, one would have to depend on another mediate concept leading to a 
circle (daur) or endless chain (tasalsul) both of which are logically impossible. 
Logicians further hold that the concepts and the judgments which are mediate 
(nazari) require some means to reach them, and, therefore, the way through 
which concepts are reached, is called hadd (definition), and the way through 
which judgments are arrived at is called qiyds (syllogism). Hence hadd and qiyds 
are the two fundamental bases on which the whole structure of Aristotelian 
logic stands. In order to refute the Aristotelian logic, ibn Taimlyyah en- 
deavoured to demolish these fundamental bases at four points which serve as 
the four main chapters of his Kitab al-Radd 'ala al-Mantiqiyyin: 

I. The desired concept cannot be obtained except by means of definition 

II. Definition gives the knowledge of concepts. 

III. The desired judgment cannot be obtained except by means of syllogism. 

IV. Syllogism or ratiocination gives the knowledge of judgment. 

It may be noted here that of the above propositions the first and the third 
are negative, while the second and the fourth are affirmative. The main 
targets of ibn Taimiyyah's refutation were the "definition" and "syllogism" 
of Aristotelian logic. 

I. The first basic proposition of the logicians that concepts cannot be 
obtained except by means of definition has been refuted by ibn Taimlyyah on 
the following grounds : 50 

47 Ibid., p. 86. 

48 Ibid., p. 89. 

49 AhRadd, p. 4. 

50 Ibid., pp. 7-14, 180. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

(i) It is a negative proposition for which the logicians have not advanced 
any proof (dalll). Such a negative proposition cannot be accepted as the 
basis of positive knowledge. Therefore, the very first proposition of Aristotelian 
logic is based on a wrong foundation. Hence, such a logic cannot be treated 
as a science which, according to the logicians, only protects human under- 
standing from committing mistakes. 

(ii) When the definition is the word of the definer, the definer will under- 
stand the thing defined either with the help of a (previous) definition or with- 
out any definition. Now, if he understands the thing denned by a previous 
definition, then his words in the second definition will be as good as his words 
in the first definition which will necessarily lead to a circle (daur ) or endless 
chain (tasalsul) in the reasoning process, both of which are impossible. If he 
understands the object defined without any definition, then the assertion in 
the proposition that "concepts cannot be obtained except with the help of 
definition" stands refuted. 

(iii) People of different branches of learning and professions know their 
affairs well without taking recourse to definitions. 

(iv) No definition universally agreed upon has yet been found. For instance, 
nobody has so far been able to offer any definition of the two famous terms 
"man" and "sun" on which all could agree. In philosophy, theology, medicine, 
grammar, etc., many contradictory definitions have, thus, come down to us. 

Now, the logicians maintain that concept is dependent on definition, but 
as no agreed definition of anything has yet been made, ibn Taimlyyah declares 
that no concept in the proper sense of the term has yet been formed. Similarly, 
the logicians believe that judgment is dependent on concept (tasawwur), but 
since concept has not yet been obtained (in the proper sense of the term), 
judgment also has not yet been arrived at. The result, in the opinion of ibn 
Taimlyyah, is the worst type of sophistication. 51 

(v) Logicians say that the concept of quiddity (mahlyyah) can only be 
arrived at by definitions which are composed of genus (jins) and differentia 
(fast). The logicians themselves have admitted that this sort of definition is 
either impossible or rarely found. But ibn Taimlyyah opines that the true 
significance of things may be achieved by men without definition and, there- 
fore, concepts are not dependent on definitions. 

(vi) To the logicians, correct definitions are the combination of genus and 
differentia, but that which is simple and unitary, like each of the "intellects" 
f'-uqul), has no definition; still they define it and hold it to be a concept. This 
shows that sometimes concepts do not need definition. If this is possible, then 
the species which are nearer to perception and are visible can be conceived 
in a way which is surer and better than the type of knowledge which is derived 
from the combination of genus and differentia. 

(vii) The definition of a thing consists of several terms each of which indicates 

51 Ibid., p. 8. 

Ibn Taimlyyah 

a definite meaning. Unless a man knows the terms and their meaning before- 
hand, it is not possible for him to understand the definition itself. For instance, 
a man who does not know what bread is cannot know it by its definition. 
Here ibn Taimlyyah makes a distinction between conception (faswir) and 
differentiation (tamiz) and sides with the Mutakallimun (scholastic theologians) 
who hold that things are actually known by differentiation and not by de- 

(viii) When the definition is the word of the definer, the definer must have 
the knowledge of the object defined before defining it. It is, therefore, wrong 
to say that the conception of a thing depends on definition. 

(ix) Concepts of existing things are derived either through external senses 
or through internal senses, none of which stands in need of any definition. 
Here ibn Taimlyyah observes that whatever cannot be known through the 
senses can be known through valid inference but not through definition. 

(x) Logicians say that a definition should be rejected by means of refutation 
and contradiction. Ibn Taimiyyah argues that refutation or contradiction is 
possible only when one has already formed a conception of the object defined. 
So it is proved that concepts may be formed without the help of definition. 

(xi) Knowledge of a particular thing may be self-evident to some, but 
acquired by others. Similarly, things which are not self-evident to some 
may be self-evident to others who would, therefore, need no definition for 
their knowledge of them. Hence it is wrong to say that knowledge depends 
on definition. 

II. The refutation of the second proposition of the logicians, that definition 
gives the knowledge of concept, forms the second chapter of ibn Taimlyyah's 
Kitab al-Radd. 52 In the opinion of ibn Taimiyyah, logicians and scholastic 
theologians gave different interpretations of definition. Greek logicians and 
their Muslim and non-Muslim followers claimed that definition contained the 
description of the object defined, while the prominent scientists held that 
definition served as a distinction between the object defined and the object 
not defined. Therefore, definition cannot give the knowledge of a concept. 
That definition offers true significance of the object defined and gives the 
knowledge of concept, has been refuted by ibn Taimlyyah on the following 

(i) Definition is a mere statement of the definer. For example, when man 
is defined as "rational animal," it is a statement that may be right or wrong. 
It is a mere assertion without any proof. The listener may understand it 
with or without its definition. In the former case, he knows it without proof 
which may or may not be correct, while in the latter case the definition 
serves no purpose. 

(ii) Logicians say that definition neither rejects the proof nor needs it. 
Unlike syllogism (qiyas), definition can be rejected by refutation or contra- 

1 Ibid., pp. 14-87. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

diction. To this ibn Taimiyyah replies that when the definer fails to advance 
any proof in favour of the correctness of the definition, the listener cannot 
understand the object defined by a mere definition which may or may not be 

(iii) If the conception of the object defined is attained by the definition, 
then it is obtained before one has known the correctness of the definition, 
since the knowledge of the correctness of the definition is not attained except 
after one has known the object defined. 

(iv) The knowledge of the object defined depends on the knowledge of the 
thing (named) and of its attributes which the logicians call essential attributes 
(at-sifat al-dhatiyyah) and names as "the parts of definition," "parts of quid- 
dity," etc., etc. If the listener does not know that the object defined is 
attributed with those attributes, he cannot conceive it. If he knows that the 
thing is attributed with those qualities, he has known them without any 
definition. 53 

Ibn Taimiyyah then advances four similar arguments and proves that 
definitions do not offer true significance of the objects defined. 54 

III. The third proposition of the logicians, that judgments cannot be 
attained except by means of syllogism, has been refuted by our author on the 
following grounds: 55 

(i) It is an uncertain claim and a negative proposition in favour of which 
they have not advanced any proof. According to ibn Taimiyyah, both the 
self-evident (badihi) and the acquired (nazari) forms of knowledge are 
relative. If some people failed to attain judgments without the help of 
syllogism, it does not mean that nobody from among the children of Adam 
knows the judgments without syllogism. 

(ii) Knowledge of a thing does not depend on a particular syllogistic process 
of thinking. Khobar al-mutawatir (universally accepted traditions and ex- 
periences) gives the knowledge of judgments, while syllogism does not. To 
one a premise is perceptible, while to another it is not. Therefore, its 
conclusion (natijah) is undependable. 56 Ibn Taimiyyah admits that when 
the premises are correct, the conclusions are also correct, but then he does 
not admit that knowledge depends on syllogism. 57 

(iii) According to the logicians, the syllogistic process of gaining knowledge 
requires two premises, but ibn Taimiyyah says that such a knowledge may 
be attained by one, two, three, or even more premises according to the needs 
and requirements of an argument. Some persons, he adds, may not require 
any premise at all, since they know the matter by some other source (e.g., 
intuition). /The saying of the Prophet: "Every intoxicating thing is wine, and 

53 Ibid., p. 39. 
" Ibid., pp. 32-39. 
55 Ibid., pp. 88, 240. 
50 Ibid., pp. 92, 298. 
57 Ibid., p. 298. 

Ibn Taimiyyah 

all kinds of wine are unlawful," does not, in any way, support the syllogistic 
process of thinking in Islam. The Prophet never adopted such a process in 
gaining knowledge of a thing. Every Muslim knows that wine (khamr) is 
unlawful, and he does not stand in need of two premises to prove that all 
intoxicating drinks are unlawful. 58 The very first figure of syllogism, therefore, 
says ibn Taimiyyah, does not require the roundabout way of inference for 
obtaining the conclusion. 59 

The logicians claim that ratiocination gives the benefit of perfect knowledge, 
and that it deals with the knowledge of "universals," the best of which are 
the ten intellects (al-'uqvl al-'ashrah) which do not accept any change or 
alteration and through which the soul (al-nafs) attains perfection. The 
"universals" are attained by intellectual propositions which are necessary, 
such as "All men are animal," and "Every existing thing is either necessary 
or possible," and the like which do not accept any change. Ibn Taimiyyah 
opposes this claim on the following grounds: 80 

(i) According to the logicians, since ratiocination deals only with intellectual 
matters having no connection with the physical world, it gives no knowledge 
of existing things. We may, therefore, consider it useless for all practical 

(ii) Ratiocination does not help us in understanding the Necessary Existent 
(wajib al-wujud), the ten intellects (al-'uqul al-'ashrah), the heavens (al- 
afldk), the elements f'anasirarba'ah), or the created things (muwalladdt) in 
the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. 

(iii) The science of divinity to the logicians is not the knowledge of the 
Creator nor that of the created. They call it metaphysics ('ilmu ma ba'd 
al-tabi'ah), but some name it as "the science of divinity," the subject-matter 
of which is the "simple universals" which they divide into "necessary, 
possible, eternal, accidental, essence, accident," all of which have no existence 
in the physical world. 61 

Ibn Taimiyyah then traces the origin of logic to geometry. He, therefore, 
says that: 

(iv) Logicians gave the geometrical forms of argumentation in their logic 
and called them "terms" (hudud) like those of Euclid's geometry in order 
to transfer this method from the physical object to the intellectual one. 
This is due to the bankruptcy of their intellect and their inability to derive 
knowledge through a direct process. But Allah has given to the Muslims more 
knowledge and perspecuity of expression combined with good action and 
faith than to all classes of people. 62 

The logicians admit that divine knowledge is not objective. It follows that 

58 Ibid., pp. 168 et sq. 

59 Ibid., p. 200. 

60 Ibid., pp. 122-26. 

61 Ibid., p. 126. 

62 Ibid., pp. 137 et sq. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
it has no existence either in the intellectual or in the physical world. It is a 
"universal knowledge" which does not exist except in imagination. Therefore, 
there is nothing in this knowledge for the perfection of the soul. 

(v) Perfection of the soul depends on both knowledge of God and virtuous 
action ('amal sdlih), and not on philosophy. Knowledge alone cannot elevate 
the soul. Good action must be there, because the soul has two functions, 
one theoretical and the other practical. Service to God consists of knowledge 
of God and love for Him, and God sent the prophets to call people to 
worship Him. Similarly, faith (Iman) in God does not mean knowledge of 
God only, as the Jahmites believe. It consists of both knowledge and practice. 63 

IV. The fourth proposition of the logicians, that syllogism or ratiocination 
gives the knowledge of judgments (tasdiqdt), has been refuted by ibn Taimiy- 
yah in the fourth section of his book where he discusses the topic elaborately 
in about three hundred pages. 64 In this section, the author seeks to prove the 
futility of syllogism in attaining knowledge, and often ridicules the renowned 
logicians by citing their alleged death-bed recantations. « s Here he repeats in 
a new way almost all that he has said in the previous chapters about 
definition and syllogism of Aristotelian logic and brings in many irrelevant 
topics in favour of his arguments. He considers the syllogistic process of 
thinking artificial and useless. In his opinion, God has endowed human beings 
with "necessary knowledge" to understand their Creator and His attributes. 
But men invented, from the very early times, various sciences which the 
Shartah of Islam does not require for the guidance of mankind. 66 

Syllogism, as has been said before, does not give us the knowledge of existing 
things even when it is apparently correct. Sure knowledge or judgment may 
be attained even by a single premise without undergoing the syllogistic pro- 
cess. Here, ibn Taimiyyah blames the philosophers who, from differences in 
the movements of the stars, inferred that there are nine heavens and that the 
eighth and the ninth heavens are the kursi (Chair) and the 'arsh (Throne) 
of God, respectively. He hates Aristotle and his followers for believing in the 
eternity of the world (qidam al-'dlam), though most of the philosophers were 
against this view. They put forward further different theories regarding the 
life-span of this world based on the calculations of the movements of the 
heavens. Some said that the world would be destroyed after twelve thousand 
years, while others held that it would last up to thirty-six thousand years, 
and so on. To ibn Taimiyyah these inferences were baseless and unfruitful. 67 
Ibn Taimiyyah considers Aristotle to be ignorant of the science of divinity, 
and accuses ibn Sina of having adulterated it with heretical views of the 
Batiniyyah who interpreted Islamic Skari'ah according to their whims 

3 Ibid., pp. 138, 144 et sq. 
* Ibid., pp. 246-545. 

5 Ibid., pp. 248, 321. 

6 Ibid., pp. 256 et sq. 

7 Ibid., pp. 267 et sq. 

Ibn Taimiyyah 

and false ratiocination. Some of them, according to our author, said that the 
Prophet was the greatest philosopher, while others went so far as to say that 
the philosophers were greater than the prophets. Sufis like ibn 'Arabi, ibn 
Sab'in, al-Qiinawi, Tilimsani, etc., followed these heretical views of the Batiniy- 
yah and used Islamic terms in naming their theories. Some of these Sufis, 
namely, ibn Sab'in and his followers, did not distinguish between Islam and 
other religions like Christianity and Judaism. Followers of any religion could 
approach them and become their disciples without changing their faith. 68 

To ibn Taimiyyah knowledge of the particular is surer than knowledge of 
the universal. Therefore, there is not much benefit in the study of inductive 
logic in which knowledge of the individuals leads to knowledge of the universal. 
Moreover, knowledge of the individual is derived more quickly than knowledge 
of the universal which is often gained (by common sense or intuition) with- 
out undergoing any syllogistic process. 69 

Ibn Taimiyyah opines that in syllogism (qiyds) conclusion may be drawn 
out of one term only, and that it does not require sughra and hubra (minor 
and major) terms for drawing conclusions, because he who knows the 
universal quality of a class also knows that this quality is available in every 
individual. 70 Ibn Taimiyyah further believes that the teachings of the 
prophets include all the scriptural and the rational proofs. In support of his 
view, he cites a number of Qur'anie verses, e. g. : 

"Lo! those who wrangle concerning the revelation of Allah without a 
warrant having come unto them, there is naught else in their breasts but 
(the quest of) greatness, which they shall never attain to." 71 

"And when their messengers brought them clear proofs (of Allah's sovereign- 
ty), they exalted in the knowledge they (themselves) possessed and that which 
they were wont to mock befell them." 72 

Keeping in view the real existence of concepts, ibn Taimiyyah adds that 
the philosophers divided knowledge of things into three classes: physical, 
mathematical, and philosophical. Of these, philosophical knowledge deals with 
some theoretical problems relating to the existence of simple universals. 78 
It has nothing to do with practical purposes and is, therefore, useless. 

Ratiocination, in the opinion of our author, does not prove the existence 
of the Creator. The universals, according to the logicians, have no independent 
external existence. They exist intellectually, and cannot, therefore, prove the 
existence of a definite being distinguishable from the rest of existence. 7 * 
Moreover, in syllogism a complete conception of the middle term saves us from 

« 8 Ibid., pp. 278-83. 

69 Ibid., p. 316. 

70 Ibid., pp. 337-40. 

71 Qur'an, xl, 56. 

72 Ibid., xl, 83. 

73 Al-Radd, pp. 324 et sqq. 

74 Ibid., p. 344. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

logical inference. Because a person who knows that wine is forbidden, and 
every intoxicating (drink) is wine, certainly knows already that every intoxi- 
cating (drink) is forbidden (without going through the syllogistic process of 
thinking). 76 

Such are the arguments of ibn Taimiyyah in proving his assertion that 
syllogism does not give us the benefit of a new judgment. 

Now, let us see how ibn Taimiyyah refutes the views of the scholastic philo- 
sophers by tackling the theories of atom, body, similarity of bodies (tamdthul 
al-ajsdm), etc., and declares that all these are innovations in Islam, and that 
scholars have failed to come to any agreement about them. 

Theory of the Atom.— This theory was held by most of the scholastic theo- 
logians including the Jahmites, the Mu'taziUtes, and the Ash'arites. Some 
of these atomists held that bodies were combinations of atoms existing by 
themselves, and that God does not destroy any of them. He destroys only 
the accidents (a'rad), namely, their union (ijtimd 1 ), their separation (iftirdq), 
their motion (harakah), and their rest (sukun). Others maintained that atoms 
are phenomenal : God created them ex nihilo, and once they come into existence 
they are never destroyed, though accidents may be destroyed. This view was 
held by most of the Jahmites, the Mu'taziUtes, and the Ash'arites. Most of 
them, further, believed that it was supported even by ijma 1 (consensus). Ibn 
Taimiyyah rejects this theory on the ground that it is an innovation and that 
early Muslims knew nothing about it. Further, the theologians are not 
unanimous; some of them totally deny the existence of atoms and the 
composition of bodies from them. 76 

Theory of the Body.— Some opine that a thing which is definite or which 
has dimensions is called a body, while others say that it is a combination of 
two atoms, whereas some people maintain that it is a combination of four 
atoms or more up to thirty-two. Besides these, a class of philosophers 
holds that bodies are formed not of atoms but of matter and form, while 
many other scholastics and non-.scholastics profess that bodies are neither 
a combination of atoms nor of matter and form. Even Imam al-Haramain 
al-Juwaini (d. 478/1085), the teacher of Imam al-Ghazali, doubted the 
combination of matter and form, though it is reported that he himself trans- 
mitted this as a view accepted by ijma 1 (consensus). 77 

Theory of the Similarities of Bodies.— This theory is popular among some 
Muslim philosophers. The upholders of this theory profess that bodies of all 
kinds are at bottom alike, because they are the combinations of atoms which 
are themselves like one another. The difference between one body and another 
is the difference of accidents (a'rad). Ibn Taimiyyah rejects this theory, first, 
on the ground that it has been refuted by Razi and Amidi along with many 
other philosophers; secondly, because al-Ash'ari also rejects it in his Kitab 

75 Ibid., pp. 351 ct sq. 
•>' IMlas, p. 16. 
'- Ibid-ip. 50. 

Ibn Taimiyyah 

al-Ibdnah for being a theory of the Mu'taziUtes ; thirdly, because the upholders 
of this theory, in accordance with the principles of the Jahmites and the 
Qadarites, maintain that to each individual body God gives accidents (a'rad) 
pecuhar to itself. According to them, the species (ajnas) cannot change from 
one into another. A body does not turn into accidents nor one species of 
accidents into another. If it is argued against them (the philosophers) that 
since all bodies are phenomenal and all phenomenal things turn from one to 
another, it necessarily proves the change of species, they would say in reply 
that matter (mdddah) in all kinds of creation is the same. It is the qualities 
(sifdt) that change due to union (ijtima 1 ), separation (iftirdq), motion 
(harakah), and rest (sukun), while matter (mdddah) remains unchanged at 
all stages of creation. To ibn Taimiyyah, this argument is a mere assumption 
of the philosophers who have observed only the phenomenal change in things 
without having any knowledge whatsoever of the essence which they claim 
remains unchanged. These philosophers, ibn Taimiyyah continues, further 
assert that all things are combinations of atoms preserved in matter, and 
that on the basis of this theory they are divided into two groups. One group 
maintains that the atoms of which a body is constituted will be destroyed and 
then created afresh, while the other maintains that the parts of a body are 
separated but will again be united in the next world. Unfortunately, the latter 
have to answer a riddle. If a man is eaten up by an animal (say a fish) and 
then the animal is eaten up by another man, then how would he be raised on 
the day of resurrection ? In reply, some of them say that in the human body 
there are certain parts that cannot be dissolved and in these parts there is 
nothing of that animal which has been eaten up by the second man. Ibn 
Taimiyyah objects to this and points out that according to the scientists 
('uqala' ) there is nothing in the human body that cannot be dissolved and 
that, according to the aslaf (earlier writers), the fuqahd' (jurists), and also the 
people in general, one body (jism) turns into another by losing its identity 
completely. On the basis of this the jurists discussed the problem whether an 
impure thing may become pure when it is changed into another; for example, 
they agreed that if a pig falls into a salt-mine and becomes salt, it will be 
lawful for a Muslim to eat that salt. Thus, ibn Taimiyyah comes to the con- 
clusion that the arguments in favour of the theory of the similarity of bodies 
are not sustainable. He believes that bodies are dissimilar and interchangeable. 
Theory of Motion. — Philosophers among the Jahmites and the Mu'taziUtes 
have argued about the origination of bodies (huduth al-ajsdm) from the story 
of Abraham, who refused to call the stars, the moon, and the sun his lords 
(rubub).' 18 They hold that Abraham did not worship these heavenly bodies 
simply on the ground of their motion and shift (al-harakat w-al-intiqdl) as 
suggested by the word uful in the Qur'an. 79 In other words, they maintained 

78 For the full story see Qur'an, vi, 76 et sqq. 

79 Ibid., vi, 77-79. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

that motion and shift are the distinctive signs of the origination of bodies. 80 
Ibn Taimlyyah rejects the theory on the following grounds: 

(i) No such theory was maintained by the Muslim scholars nor is there any 
indication anywhere that Abraham's people ever thought of it. Why Abraham s 
people worshipped the heavenly bodies may be attributed to their superstitious 
beliefs that they would bring them good luck and save them from evil. That 
is why Abraham said, "0 my people, I share not with you the guilt of joining 
sods with God." 81 

(ii) To the Arabs the word uful means setting (of the sun, the moon, etc.) 
and being covered by veils. They did not mean by it "motion" and "shift 
as understood by these philosophers. 

(iii) "Motion" and "shift" in the heavenly bodies exist at all times. There 
was no reason for Abraham to ascribe "motion" and "shift" to the heavenly 
bodies only at the time of their disappearance. He could recognize them even 
before they disappeared from the sky. It was on account of such misinter- 
pretations that ibn Slna arrived at the wrong conclusion that "disappearance 
is the possibility of existence and everything the existence of which is possible 
is liable to disappear." 82 . 

The theory of indestructible atoms held by the philosophers goes against 
the agreement of the learned people ('ulanm') that one thing may turn into 
another and that the atoms have no existence, just as the intellectual atoms 
(al-jawahir <d-'atfiyydh) of the Peripatetics are mere conjectures. 83 ^ 

The actual cause of the divergence of opinion among the 'ulanm as sug- 
gested by ibn Taimiyyah, was their invention of certain equivocal terms 
For example, what is an indivisible atom ? It is obvious that most intelligent 
people have failed to conceive of it. Those who are supposed to have understood 
it could not prove it, and those who were said to have proved it had to take 
shelter under long and far-fetched interpretations. 8 * None of the Companions 
of the Prophet nor their Successors nor anyone prior to them in natural 
religion (dm al-fitrah) ever spoke about indivisible atoms. Naturally there- 
fore, it cannot be suggested that those people ever had in mind the term 
"body" and its being an assembly of atoms. No Arab could conceive of the 
sun, the moon, the sky, the hills, the air, the animals, and the vegetables 
being combinations of atoms. Was it not impossible for them to conceive of 
an atom without any dimension? The traditionists, the mystics, and the 
iurists never thought of such doctrines. 85 _ 

Theory of the Neccessary Cause (Mujib bi al-Dhat).-Ibn Taimiyyah 
refutes the philosophical interpretation of the necessary cause. He says that 

*° M. Sunnah, Vol. I, pp. 197 et sqq.; Al-Eadd, pp. 304-05. 

81 M. Sunnah, Vol. I, p. 197. 

" Cf. M. Sunnah, al-aful hu w-al-imkan tea kullu mumkin afil. 

83 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 182. 

84 Ikhlas, pp. 52 et sq. 
86 Ibid.', p. 53. 


Ibn Taimiyyah 

if by "necessary cause" the philosophers mean an existence which has no 
"will" and no "power," then such an existence bears no meaning, nor has it 
any significance externally, much less can it be existing necessarily. Ibn Rushd 
and other philosophers contradict themselves in their discussion of this prob- 
lem. They postulate at the outset "a final cause" or 'ittat al- gha yah and then 
other final causes to assist it in creation (lehalq) which needs volition (irddah). 
And since they interpret the final cause as mere knowledge and "knowledge" 
as the "knower," it becomes totally absurd and contradictory, because we 
know necessarily that volition (irddah) is not identical with knowledge, nor 
knowledge with the knower. With these philosophers, says ibn Taimiyyah, 
heterogeneous expressions may have only one meaning; by knowledge they 
mean power or volition, by attribution they mean the attributed, just as by 
knowledge they mean the knower, by power they mean the powerful, by 
volition the volent, and by love the lover. Granted that there is a being 
without "will" and "choice," it is impossible for such a being to create this 
universe, because such a necessary cause needs its own causes and they cannot 
be independent. 88 

Theories of Harakat al-Falak, Namus, and Mumkin. — Ibn Sina and his 
followers, in trying to compromise between prophecy and philosophy, invented 
the theory of harakat at-falak or movement of the sky. They maintain that 
the heaven moves in obedience to the "First Cause" (al-'Illat al-Vla). To 
these people the word ilah (deity) means a leader in obedience to whom the 
sky moves, and their highest philosophy is to remain obedient to their leader. 
The "Maqalat al-Lam," Book I, in Aristotle's Metaphysica supplies us with 
such a description. 87 

The philosophers believed in namus. By namus they meant government of 
the world run by wise men for the attainment of good and avoidance of 
oppression. Those amongst them who acknowledged "prophecy" maintained 
that all religions were of the type of namus brought to the world for the 
common good. Ibn Sina was one of those who held this view. In accordance 
with their grades of practical philosophy, these people considered the acts 
of worship (Hbadah), revealed Laws (Sharl'ah), and injunctions (ahkam) to 
be moral, domestic, and civil laws respectively. Ibn Taimiyyah strongly opposes 
the theories of both harakat al-falak and namus, and condemns the philosophers 
for their vain attempt. He pronounces them all to be far from the truth and 
stigmatizes Aristotle, their first teacher, as the most ignorant of men (ajhal 
al-nds), who knew nothing of God though he was well versed in physics. 88 

As for the theory of mumkin, the scholastics are of the opinion that every 
possible thing (mumkin) either occupies space (mutahayyiz) or exists in 
that which occupies space (qd'im bi al-mutahayyiz). Ibn Sina and his followers, 
al-Shahrastani, al-Razi, etc., in affirming an existing thing different from 

84 M. Sunnah, Vol. I, p. 111. 
« IW&8, p. 57. 
88 Ibid. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

these, postulate humanity, animality, or such other generic concepts. To ibn 
Taimiyyah these generic concepts exist only in the mind. He observed that 
people objected to such theories when the philosopher wanted to prove a 
thing which was beyond imagination or which existed by itself imperceptibly. 
He further disapproved of the theory that all existing things must be visible 
to the eyes or perceptible to the senses. 89 

How far is ibn Taimiyyah justified in declaring, against the philosophers, 
that God is above us in the heaven ? Can "direction" be applied to God ? 

According to Aristotle, upward and downward do not signify place, but the 
predicament "where," just as "yesterday" and "today" do not signify time, 
but the predicament "when." 90 This does not contradict the dialectics of ibn 
Taimiyyah who protests against those who say that God cannot be in any 
direction, because it signifies a place, and one who is in a place must have been 
created (Jiddith). In his opinion, those who say that God exists in some 
direction, meaning thereby that He is in some existing place within the uni- 
verse, are wrong, but if by "direction" they mean some non-existing thing 
above the universe ('dlam), then they are right, because above the universe 
there is nothing but God. 91 Then the question arises, what is the Throne of God 
and why do men raise their hands upwards at the time of prayer? Ibn Taimiyyah 
says that this is because, according to the Qur'an, God is on His Throne and 
the angels bear it. 92 The early philosophers erroneously believed that the 
Throne meant the ninth heaven (al-falak al-tdsi'), because the astronomers 
could not discover anything beyond it. They further maintained that this 
ninth heaven was the cause of the movements of the other eight heavens. 
The ninth heaven was also called by them spirit (al-ruh), soul (al-nafs), or the 
Preserved Table (al-lauh al-mahjuz) as also active intellect (al-'aql al-fa"al) 
and so on. They further compared this ninth heaven in its relation to the 
other heavens with the intellect in human beings in relation to their bodies 
and their activities. 93 All such theories are, in the opinion of ibn Taimiyyah, 
mere conjectures without any foundation. 94 He quotes a tradition in defence 
of his belief that the 'arsh is above all the heavens which are above the earth, 
and is in the shape of a dome (qubbah).* 5 Granted that the 'arsh is round 
and it envelops the whole creation, he further argues, it must be on top of all 
existing things from all directions, and a man will naturally turn his face 
upwards when asking for God's favour, and not downwards or in any other 

89 Ibid., pp. 65 et sqq. 

90 Aristotle, Organon, London, 1877, p. 18. 

91 M. Sunnah, Vol. I, p. 250. 
02 Qur'an, xl, 7. 

9S MRM, Vol. IV, pp. 106-08. 

94 Ibid., -p. 116. 

95 On the authority of abu Dawud, narrated by Jubair ibn Mut'im. Here ibn 
Taimiyyah appears to have quoted a tradition of doubtful authenticity, because 
this tradition has not been accepted by all authorities. See annotation by Rashtd 
Rida in MRM, Vol. IV, pp. 114 et sqq. 


Ibn Taimiyyah 

direction. If one who looks to any of the heavens in any direction other than 
upward must be counted as a fool, then what is to be said of a man who 
seeks God's favour but looks in any direction other than upward when upward 
is nearer to him than any other direction, right, left, front, or back ? Supposing 
a man intended to climb the sky or anything that is upward, he must begin 
from the direction that is over his head; no sensible person will ever advise 
him to rend the earth and then go downward because that is also possible 
for him. Similarly, he will not run to his right or left, front or back and 
then climb, though that is also equally possible for h im to do. 96 

By the time ibn Taimiyyah appeared with his polemics against all 
sciences and religious institutions whose origin could not be traced to early 
Islam, pantheism occupied the mind of a number of reputed Muslim scholars. 
Of these he mentions ibn 'Arabi (d. 638/1240), ibn Sab'In {d. 667/1269), ibn 
al-Farid (d. 577/1181), al-Hallaj (executed in 309/922), and a few others. 
Pantheism, according to ibn Taimiyyah, is based upon two wrong principles 
which are against Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and are contradictory to 
rational and scriptural arguments. 97 

Some pantheists who profess the doctrines of incarnation (hulul), unification 
(itti^M), or other closely related doctrine like "Unity of Existence," maintain 
that "existence" is one, though there are two degrees of it. It is (i) necessary 
in the Creator and (ii) contingent in the creation. To this group of pantheists 
ibn Taimiyyah assigns ibn 'Arabi, ibn Sab'in, ibn al-Farid, Tilimsani, etc. 
Of these ibn Arabi distinguishes between existence (umjud) and affirmation 
(thubut) saying that "substances" do exist in Non- Being ('adam) independent 
of God, and that the existence of God is the existence of the substances them- 
selves: the Creator needs the substances in bringing them into existence, 
while the substances need Him for obtaining their existence which is the very 
existence of Himself. 98 Al-Qunawi (d. 673/1274) and his followers made a 
distinction between "the general" and "the particular" (al-itlaq w-al-ta'yln). 
They maintained that the Necessary One is unconditionally identical with 
the existing things in general. To ibn Taimiyyah these are fantastic imaginings, 
because what is general in conception must be definite in individuals. 99 

Ibn Sab'In and his followers hold that "the Necessary" and "the contingent" 
are like "matter" and "form." Ibn Taimiyyah considers this view absurd and 
self- contradictory. In his opinion, it leads to the theories of incarnation and 
unity of existence. These people are the pantheists who failed to conceive of 
the divine attribute called al-mvbdyanah li al-makhluqdt, different from 
originated things. They knew that God exists and thought that His Being is 
the same as His existence, just as a man looks to the ray of the sun and calls 

96 MRM, Vol. TV, pp. 124-26. 

97 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 66. 

98 Ibid., p. 67. 

99 Ibid. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

it the sun itself. 100 Ibn Taimiyyah quotes a saying of Shaikh Junaid Baghdadi, 
"To believe in the Unity of God is to separate the quality of origination from 
that of eternity," and emphasizes that there must be a distinction between 
the Creator and the created; they cannot be one and the same. 101 

According to ibn 'Arabi, non-existence is a positive thing even in its state 
of non-being. 102 He further maintains that the existence of such things is the 
existence of God Himself; they are distinguished by their essential character- 
istics which persist in the void, and are united with the existence of God, who 
knows them. Abu 'Uthman al-Shahham, 103 the teacher of al-Jubba'i, was the 
first to speak about it in Islam. These people argued in favour of their 
theory that had there been nothing in the void, there would not have been 
any difference between <i) things known, and (U) things unknown. Distinction, 
in their opinion, can exist only between positive things. Such a theory is 
absurd according to ibn Taimiyyah. The Sunnite Mutakallimun called these 
people heretics. 104 Ibn 'Arabi's theories generally revolve round this point. 
Regarding the above doctrine of ibn 'Arabi, ibn Taimiyyah remarks that the 
Jews, the Christians, the Magians, and even the heathens never maintained 
such a belief. He, therefore, calls it a Pharaonic theory which had also been 
held by the Qarmatians. 106 

According to ibn Taimiyyah, ibn 'Arabi's theory reveals two things when 
analysed: (i) Denial of the existence of God, and (ii) denial of His creation of 
creatures. 106 Besides, according to ibn Taimiyyah, ibn 'Arabi maintains that 
sainthood (wildyah) is better than prophethood (nubuwwah) and that saint- 
hood will never come to an end, whereas prophecy has already been ter- 
minated. 107 . . 

Ibn Taimiyyah then gives various explanations of the pantheistic views ol 
ibn 'Arabi, and declares them absurd. He compares ibn 'Arabi to the deaf 
and dumb, and quotes the verse of the Holy Qur'an, "Deaf, dumb, blind: 
therefore, they shall not retrace their steps from error." 108 Similar attacks 
were made also by him against other Muslim philosophers. 

We have seen ibn Taimiyyah's attitude towards theology, logic, and 
philosophy. He quotes Imam Shafi'i that theologians should be beaten with 
shoes and palm branches, but while replying to theological as well as philo- 
sophical questions, he cannot help adopting theological and philosophical 
argumentation. From his method of discussion it is evident that in 
theology and philosophy he is able to put forward an argument by referring 

i°« Ibid. 

«i Ibid., p. 102. 

1M Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 6. 

103 Known as abu Ya'qub al-Shahham, see al-Farq, p. 163. 

1M MRM, Vol. IV, p. 6. 

105 Ibid., p. 17. 

i» 6 Ibid. 

»* Ibid., p. 58. 

ins Qur'an, ii, 18. 


Ibn Taimiyyah 

everything to the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah declaring the rest to be innova- 
tions. As for his views about Aristotelian logic, he exhibits his power of 
argumentation in an extraordinary way. He is, no doubt, an independent 
thinker and is free from the fetters of blind following (taqlld) in every matter. 
He may be called the precursor of the modern trend of anti-Aristotelianism. 

Arba'un : 

Durar : 






M. Sunnah : 
M. Tafstr: 

Majallah : 


R. 'Ubudiyyah: 




Naqd al-Mantiq : 

Istihsdn al-Khaud : 


(With Abbreviations) 

Ibn Taimiyyah, Arba'una Haditkan, Salaf iyyah Press, Cairo, 


Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, Durar al-Kaminah, Hyderabad, 1348/ 


'Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi, Kitab al-Farq bain al-Firaq, Cairo, 


Al-Kutubi, Fawat al-Wajayat, Bulaq, 1299/1881. 

Ibn Taimiyyah, Tafsir Surat al-Ikklas, ed. Muhammad Badr 

al-DIn al Halabi, Cairo, 1323/1905. 

Idem, Jawab Ahl al-'Ilm w-al-Iman bi al-Tahqiq ma Akhbara 

bihi al-Rasul al-Rahman min anna Qui hu w-Allah Ta'dil 

Thuluth al-Qur'an, Cairo, 1325/1907. 

India Office Library, London. 

Journal of Asiatic Society of Pakistan, Dacca. 

Ibn B!ajar al-'Asqalani, IAsan al-Mizan, Hyderabad, 1323/1905. 

Ibn Taimiyyah, Majmu'at al-Rasa'U, published by Muhammad 

Badr al-DIn, Cairo, 1323/1905. 

Idem, Majmu'at al-Rasa'il al-Kubra, 2 Vols., Cairo, 1323/1905. 

Idem, Majmu'at al-Rasa'U, ed. Muhammad Rashid Rida', 

5 Parts, Cairo, 1341-49/1922-30. 

Idem, Minhaj al-Sunnah, Bulaq, 1321-22/1903-04. 

Idem, Majmu'at al-Tafsir, ed. 'Abd al-Samad Sharaf al-DIn, 

Bombay, 1954. 

Majallah al-Majma' al-'Ilm al-' Arabi, Damascus. 

Al-Dhahabi, Mizan al-I'tidal fi Tarajim al-Rijal, Lucknow, 


Ibn Battutah, Rihlah, Paris, 1853-1914. 

Ibn Taimiyyah, Risalat al- l Ubudiyyah in MS. 

Al-Subki (Taj al-DIn), Tabaqat al-ShafVtyyah. 

Ibn Taimiyyah, Qa'idah Jalllah fi al-Tawassul w-al-WasUah, 

Cairo, 1345/1926. 

Idem, Kitab al-Radd 'ala al-Mantiqiyym, ed. 'Abd al-Samad 

Sharaf al-DIn al-Kutubi, Bombay, 1949. 

Idem, Naqd al-Mantiq, ed. Muhammad al-Hamid al-Faqqi, 

Cairo, 1370/1950. 

Al-Ash'ari, Risalah fi Istihmn al-Khaud fi 'Ilm al-Kalam, 

Hyderabad, 1323/1905. 

Part 3. The Sufis 

Chapter XLII 

Jalal al-Din Rumi is the greatest mystical poet of Islam. It can be said 
without fear of contradiction that in the entire range of mystical literature 
of the whole world there is none to equal him either in depth or in comprehen- 
siveness and extent. There have been mystics both in the East and the West 
whose experiences in the realm of the spirit may have equalled the spiritual 
perceptions of Rumi, but their emotional or intuitional side was not matched 
by an equally clear and powerful intellect. Rumi's uniqueness lies in the fact 
that in him reason is wedded to a wide and deep religious experience. The 
Muslim world has honoured him with the title of Maulawi-i Ma'rmwi (the 
Doctor of Meaning), a religious scholar who is capable of philosophizing, of 
penetrating into the meaning of physical and spiritual phenomena, and lifting 
the veil of appearance to peep into the reality behind them. When he argues 
he is a match for a superb dialectician of the stature of a Socrates or a Plato, 
but ever conscious of the fact that logic is a poor substitute for life. He 
inherited vast and variegated intellectual and spiritual wealth. He surveyed 
and imbibed the rationalistic outlook of Hellenism sifting the grain from 
the chaff, separating the kernel from the husk. As a Muslim he was an 
heir to the spiritual wealth bequeathed to humanity by the glorious line of 
great prophets from Abraham to Muhammad. We find in him the sturdy 
ethics of the Israelite prophets, the dynamic view of life of Islam and the all- 
pervading love of Jesus. He calls his magnum ojms the Mathruiwi, the "Shop 
of Unity," wherein the diversities of life are harmonized and apparent con- 
tradictions transcended by creative unities. Nothing that is human or divine is 
alien to him. He expands with great force and conviction the original thesis 
of Islam, of the fundamental unity of all spiritual religions despite the contra- 
dictory dogmas that narrow theologies have formulated. The windows of his 
soul are wide open in all directions. Although a believing and practising Muslim, 
he is temperamentally a non-conformist for he realizes the secondary nature 
of the form in comparison with the spirit. He is a protestant of protestants, 
never tiring in the exposition of his thesis that in the realm of the spirit mere 
authority without personal realization is of no avail. Faith in the sense of 
believing in the unbelievable and undemonstrable realities is repudiated by 
him in very strong terms. For him God is a reality to be experienced and 
apprehended as more real than the objects of sense-experience; similarly, the 

Jalal al-Din Rumi 

relation of man to God is not a matter merely to be rationalized and moulded 
into a dogma but to be realized in the depth of one's own being where the 
human gets into tune with the divine and the finite is embraced by the infinite. 
It is impossible to put any label on a genius like him. During his life rigid 
orthodoxy was extremely suspicious of his beliefs and averse to some of his 
practices which were stigmatized as innovations and aberrations. There was 
sufficient material in his beliefs and utterances to convict him of heresy before 
a court of inquisition. His biographers have related an incident in his life 
which throws light on his catholicity. It is said that the chief of orthodox 
theologians planned to discredit him by engaging him in a controversy that 
would expose his heresies. At the very outset Rumi was asked to declare as 
to which of the seventy- two sects he offered allegiance. Rumi gave a very 
unexpected answer by saying that he believed in all of them, meaning thereby 
that there is some truth in every sect which has been exaggerated and distorted 
by the fanatical exuberance of the blind followers of its tenets. The theologian 
was nonplussed, not knowing how to tackle a man of such an indefinite 
attitude. Piqued by this disconcerting reply the theologian, in an angry 
outburst, said that it signified that he was a heretic and an atheist. The reply 
to this was still more disturbing for the theologian: Rumi said that he 
endorsed even this judgment about him. 

Let us start with a short biographical sketch of this remarkable religious 
genius to note his background and the influences that moulded him. He was 
born in 604/1207 during the reign of Muhammad Khwarizm Shah whose 
empire extended from the Ural mountains to the Persian Gulf and from the 
Euphrates to the Indus. The family had been settled there for several genera- 
tions. As Balkh was in the Persian domain and Rumi wrote in the Persian 
language, the modern Iranian scholars claim him as belonging to the Iranian 
nation. On the other hand, the Turks call him a Turk because after bis early 
youth the family settled in Anatolia which was a Turkish province but was 
formerly a part of the Roman Empire, and hence the great mystic poet is 
called Rumi which means Roman. The Arabs might as well claim him as an 
Arab because at the summit of his genealogical table we find the great Caliph 
abu Bakr, the first Successor of the Prophet. The spirit of Rumi, the universal 
mystic, must be smiling at these attempts of racial appropriation. In one of his 
lyrics he says that heaven is his original homeland, to which he craves to 
return. In another lyric he asks his fellow Muslims as to what he should say 
about himself: "As to my homeland it is not Khurasan, nor any other place 
in the East or the West, and as to my creed I am neither a Jew, nor a 
Zoroastrian, not even a Muslim as this term is generally understood." 

In his ancestry we find great names, great not only as scholars and divines, 
but also from the mundane point of view. On the maternal side he is a 
grandson of the great monarch Muhammad Khwarizm Shah who had given 
his daughter in marriage to the famous mystic Husain Balkhi, Rumi's 
grandfather. The father of Rumi, Balm' al-Dm, was famous for his learning 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

and piety. He lectured from morning till evening on religious sciences as well as 
on mystical lore, and delivered sermons on Mondays and Fridays to crowded 
audiences. Commoners as well as scholars, aristocrats, and royalty gathered 
to hear him. The monarch held Imam Fakhr al-Din Razi, the commentator of 
the Qur'an and one of the great dialecticians, in great esteem and sometimes 
brought him along to hear Baha' al-Din. Razi was reputed to be imbued with 
Greek dialectics, and attempted to prove religious truths by logic. Seeing Razi 
in the audience Baha' al-Din would pour his wrath on these attempts at the 
Hellenization of Islam, but the presence of the monarch and the prestige of 
the preacher prevented him from defending himself. Rumi as a young boy 
must have heard these denunciations from the lips of his learned father. In 
the Mathnawi, when Rumi takes up the cudgel on behalf of personal experience 
against mere logic-chopping, he points to Razi as a representative of a class 
of people who want to enter the realm of religious truth, walking on the wooden 
legs of mere argumentation: 

"If dialectics alone could reveal the secrets of the spirit, Razi would have 
certainly reached them, but the feet of the dialectician are wooden and 
the wooden feet are most shaky." 
It is said that Razi got so jealous of the popularity and prestige of Baha' al-Din 
that he poisoned the mind of the monarch against him by insinuating that, 
if the influence of this preacher were allowed to develop indefinitely, he would 
wield a power that would surpass the power of the sovereign. Autocratic rulers 
in Christendom as well as in Muslim kingdoms have often shown fearful 
jealousy of religious leaders, be they popes or priests. There is no wonder 
that Khwarizm Shah became apprehensive of the growing influence and 
prestige of Baha,' al-Din and his fears were fanned by the latter's rivals in the 
religious field. It is quite possible that Baha' al-Din left Balkh along with his 
whole family to forestall an adverse action against him. But there is also 
another version about his motive to migrate. Shortly after he left Balkh the 
Tartar invasion overwhelmed the domains of Khwarizm Shah. It may be that 
Baha' al-Din had seen that it was imminent and so he decided to move away 
into a safer region. The family moved first to Nishapur and then to Baghdad 
where Baha' al-Din's stay was prolonged because Baghdad was a cultural 
centre of the Muslim world and attracted scholars from distant Muslim lands. 
A delegation from the Sultan of Rum, 'Ala al-Din Kaiqubad, happened to 
visit Baghdad during this period; its members were greatly impressed by 
Baha' al-Din's lectures and sermons. On their return to Anatolia they spoke 
to the Sultan about the 'spiritual eminence of Baha' al-Din, and the Sultan 
persuaded him to come over to his realm. Baha' al-Din travelled from Baghdad 
to the Hijaz and passing through Syria he stayed for about a year in the 
town of Aque and then stopped for seven years in Laranda in Zinjan. Here, 
in 662/1263, his illustrious son Rumi, now mature in mind and years, was 
married. It was here that Rumi's son Sultan Walad was born a year later. 

Jalftl al-Din Rumi 

The Sultan invited the family to settle down in Quniyah, capital of his 
kingdom. The Sultan with his retinue received him at some distance from 
the town and reaching the city wall he got down from his horse to escort 
the great divine on foot. Baha' al-Din's family was lodged in a palatial house 
and the Sultan would visit him very often. 

We see form this family background that Rumi grew up in an atmosphere 
of religious learning in which religious problems were discussed and contro- 
versies entered into with great enthusiasm. Rumi must have learnt much from 
his father and the great scholars who were devoted to him. The most eminent 
among them was Burhan al-Din Muhaqqiq whose title denotes that he carried 
on independent research (tahqlq). Rumi's father entrusted the education of 
his promising son to this teacher who inculcated in his pupil the habit 
of independent thinking. Rumi's education continued after the death of 
his father and we find him at the age of twenty-five travelling in search 
of knowledge to great centres of learning like Damascus and Halab (Aleppo). 
Rumi lived for some time in the hostel of Helariyyah College. There were very 
eminent teachers on the staff of this College, one of whom was Kamal al-Din 
ibn 'Adim Halabi, who wrote a history of Halab, a fragment of which has 
been published in Europe. Rumi's education covered the whole curriculum: 
the Qur'anic commentary, Hadith, jurisprudence, and Arabic language and 
literature. His Mathnawi bears ample evidence of this vast learning. It 
is on account of this intellectual and academic training that his mysticism 
is not merely emotional. At every step we find him intellectualizing his supra- 
rational spiritual experiences. He spent seven years in the colleges of Damascus 
and we find him still engaged in academic pursuits even at the age of forty. 
The Holy Prophet Muhammad had started his mission at that age. In Plato's 
Republic Socrates proposed a similarly long process of education for those who 
would be philosophic rulers of his ideal republic. 

Although it is stated in the Manaqib al-'Arifin that at the time of the death of 
Rumi's father his teacher and tutor Burhan al-Din certified his pupil's thorough 
attainment in prevalent sciences and then launched him on a long course of 
mystical practices which continued for nine years, yet we do not find any 
fruits of these spiritual experiences in the life of Rumi before his encounter 
with the mystical and mysterious Shams of Tabriz. Rumi now engaged him- 
self in teaching theology and giving sermons as the learned religious teachers 
of his time usually did. His verdict or fatwa was sought and quoted about 
religious questions on which he was held to be an authority. He avoided music 
as the rigid puritanical orthodoxy of his time did. There is no doubt that his 
meeting with Shams was a turning point in his life. As to what happened 
when Shams and Rumi met for the first time, there exist a number of legends 
that are inconsistent. According to one version, Rumi, surrounded by books 
and pupils, was engaged in teaching when Shams suddenly dropped in 
and asked him, "What are these books about ?" Taking him to be a man 
without learning Rumi replied that the questioner could not know what they 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

contained. At this the heap of books burst into flames. Rumi in great 
consternation asked him the meaning of this miraculous phenomenon. At this 
Shams said, "This is what you cannot understand." Another version of this 
legend is that Shams threw the books in a cistern of water and when Rumi 
was enraged at this Shams brought them out without the water having 
touched them; they were as dry as before. Shibli, the eminent modern 
writer of a book on Rumi, is evidently right in his judgment that these 
legends are not based on facts because Sipah Salar, who spent forty 
years in intimate contact with Rumi, relates his meeting with Sbams in a 
simple story unadorned by any legend. If anything unusual had happened, 
surely this friend and devotee would not have missed mentioning it. He says 
that Shams was the son of 'Ala' al-Din and was a descendant of Kaya Buzurg, 
an Imam of the Isma'Ili sect before dissociating himself from it. Shams received 
his education in Tabriz and then became a disciple of Baba Kamal al-Din 
Jumdi, who introduced him to mystic way of life. He travelled from place to 
place living in caravanserais, weaving girdles and selling them for bread. He 
was staying in a serai of Quniyah when Rumi went to see him. The impression 
of this mystic on Rumi's mind was deep and lasting. Sipah Salar says that 
the two were closeted together for six months in Salah al-Din Zarkub's room, 
which none but Zarkub was allowed to enter. Now Rumi left off teaching and 
preaching and spent days and nights only in the company of Shams. It was 
rumoured that a magician had bewitched the great divine. Rumi's sons and 
disciples turned against Shams whom they considered to be a charlatan and 
a sorcerer. Under these circumstances Shams left Quniyah suddenly, leaving 
no clue about his whereabouts. After a long time Shams wrote to Rumi from 
Damascus. This letter kindled the flame in Rumi's mind again. In the mean- 
time his disciples whose resentment had driven away Shams had repented 
of their conduct. Rumi's son Sultan Walad in his Mathnawi has mentioned 
this incident in detail because he was deputed by his father to go to Damascus 
accompanied by some other disciples to persuade Shams to return to Quniyah. 
The epistle of Rumi written in verse is recorded in the Mathnawi of Sultan 
Walad. This letter shows how deeply Rumi had felt the pangs of separation 
from his spiritual guide and in what great esteem he held him. Shams accom- 
panied this delegation and returned to Quniyah where he was received with 
great honour by Rumi and his disciples. It appears that Shams now meant 
to stay on, having allayed the suspicions of Rumi's disciples by marrying a 
maid of Rumi's house whose name was Kimiya. A residential tent was pitched 
for the wedded couple in front of the family residence of Rumi. Something 
happened again which turned Rumi's son 'Ala' al-Din Chalpi against Shams 
and others joined him with the result that Shams disappeared now for good. 
Rumi's reliable biographer Sipah Salar says only this much that Shams left 
Quniyah again in indignation and although Rumi sent people to search for 
him in various places no one could find him. But other biographers of Rumi 
are in full accord about the conviction that Shams was assassinated by some 

Jalal al-Din Rumi 

of Rumi's disciples, and the author of Nafahdt al-Uns mentions the name of 
Rumi's son, 'Ala' al-Din, as his murderer. The assassination or disappearance 
of Shams took place in about 645/1247. 

It is difficult to assess the mind and character of a man who appeared from 
nowhere and disappeared without leaving a trace after having influenced so 
deeply one of the greatest religious geniuses of all times. Could a man of 
Rumi's mental calibre be the subject of an abiding delusion created by a 
master hypnotist ? The world has valued Rumi as a man of deep spiritual 
apprehension ; a man whose religious life was rooted in a personal experience 
which could stand the test of reason. We find him acknowledge his debt to 
Shams in a thousand soul-stirring lyrics. Shams found Rumi an academic 
theologian and conventional preacher and converted him into an ecstatic mystic 
in deep personal contact with the ineffable verities of life. The prosaic Rumi 
was overnight turned into an ecstatic lyricist, who now found poetry and 
music better than philosophy and theology as vehicles for the expression of 
truth. Rumi identified himself so completely with Shams that the voluminous 
collection of his mystical lyrics is called Biwan-i Shams-i Tabriz. In hundreds 
of lyrics the inspiration received from this mysterious spiritual guide is acknow- 
ledged with vibrating gratitude. The realm of mystical experience is a doubly 
sealed mystery to the uninitiated, but he has to accept the testimony of 
Rumi about it, however personal and subjective it may be, when he says 
with unshakable conviction that in Zarkub's shop, where the guide and 
the disciple were closeted together in mysterious intimacy, he found a spiritual 
treasure of indescribable value and ineffable beauty, both of form and meaning. 
We can say only this much that Shams must have been a man of extra- 
ordinary psychical power capable of influencing the master mind of his age, 
whose magnum opus of intellectualized and versified religious experience 
created a monument of mystical poetry in which eternal love and cosmic 
reason seem to have achieved perfect accord. 

Rumi had no intention of either founding a new sect or initiating a new 
movement; his devotees and disciples, however, did form a distinctive group 
after his death, but they developed and perpetuated only some external ob- 
servances and rituals, and degenerated into a community of whirling dervishes. 
A felt- cap without a seam — the leaders also wrapping a turban round it and 
wearing voluminous trousers of many folds — became the standard livery of 
this group which was incapable of comprehending either the depth of Rumi's 
thought or the spirit of his religious experience. Rumi who was bitterly averse 
to imitation and blind conformity in religious fife became a victim, by irony of 
fate, of what he had persistently fought against. With Rumi ecstatic dance 
accompanied by spontaneously gushing forth lyrics was an involuntary expres- 
sion of a deeply stirred soul. The imitators of externals adopted it as a regular 
practice of inducing religious emotion, unconsciously believing, like William 
James, that the voluntary adoption of the physical expression of an emotion 
tends to create the emotion itself. The ecstasy-seeking group sits in a circle, 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

while one of them stands up to dance with one hand on the breast and the 
other arm spreading out. In the dance there is no forward or backward move- 
ment but that of whirling around with increasing tempo. When accompanied 
by music, only flutes and drums are used. There is a trying process of under- 
going a discipline of service to others before a candidate for membership could 
qualify for it. It starts not with the service of men but the service of animals 
for forty days, obviously with the idea that if a man can serve animals dutifully 
with love and consideration he would serve his fellow beings still better. After 
this he sweeps the floors of the lodgings of poor devotees. It is followed by 
other terms of service of forty days each of drawing water and carrying fuel 
and other general domestic chores. This is considered to be a cure for man's 
love of power and privilege of class and caste. At the end he is given a bath 
to symbolize riddance of lower passions. He takes a vow of total abstinence 
from all forbidden acts and is allowed to wear the garb of the sect. 



Riimi as a philosopher of religion stands shoulders above all those Muslim 
thinkers who are called fyukama' in the history of Muslim thought. He compiled 
no systematic treatise either on philosophy or theology and made no sustained 
attempt to build a system of either speculative or mystical metaphysics. One 
cannot put him in the category of philosophers like al-Farabi, ibn Sina 
(Avicenna), ibn Rushd (Averroes), and even al-Ghazali. He did not hitch his 
wagon to these stars with the exception of al-GhazaJi. who attempted a monu- 
mental synthesis of orthodox Muslim theology and mysticism attempting to 
bridge the gulf between the two. He is the heir to the ethical monotheism of 
the Israelite prophets which culminated in the dispensation of Islam, but by the 
time this heritage reached him it had already been supplemented by Hellenistic 
thought. But he deepens and broadens all that he inherits. He belongs to no 
school or sect. He picks up what he considers to be true and discards whatever 
he thinks to be false, however time-honoured and orthodox the view or dogma 
may be. A patient study of his Mathnam reveals him not as a mediocre eclectic 
but a man with a definite view of the nature of existence. He has a deep- 
rooted feeling about the basic unity of reality and appearance. For a man 
like him every thesis and antithesis is transcended by a higher synthesis 
wherein contradictions are resolved in the ever-advancing movement of life. 
He talks of mere dialecticians with disdain but does not shun dialectics to 
sustain a thesis. You may consider him a free-lance both in philosophy and 
religion, but his freedom is informed with a basic attitude that never wavers 
and perpetually returns to itself after numerous digressions and deviations. 
While dealing with a genius like Rumi one is always conscious of a feeling of 
injustice towards him. The best that he has uttered vibrates with life, while 

Jalal al-Dln Rumi 

an intellectual analysis in relation to life itself is, in the words of Goethe, like 
grey autumn leaves as compared with the sapful green tree which has dropped 
them. But this drawback is inherent in all intellectual analyses and theories 
and one has regretfully to remain contented with it. We will make an attempt 
to give a brief summary of his beliefs, outlook, and metaphysics under a few 


The ground of all existence is spiritual. It is not easy to define the meaning of 
the term "spiritual," especially in the world- view of Rumi. For him the ground 
of being is akin to what we feel in ourselves as spirit or ego. Infinite number 
of egos emerging out of the Cosmic Ego constitute the totality of existence. 
In this view even matter is spiritual. The thinker nearest to Rumi in this 
respect is the German philosopher Leibniz, who centuries after Riimi conceived 
of existence as an infinity of egos at different levels of consciousness. As in 
the metaphysics of Leibniz, Riimi believed God to be a universal cosmic 
Monad. There is nothing like lifeless matter; matter is also alive though at a 
lower gradation of being. "Earth and water, fire and air are alive in the view 
of God, though they appear to be dead to us." 

In all speculative philosophy, the starting point, the point of departure, is 
an undemonstrable postulate. So is the case with the thought of Rumi. 
Assuming existence to be spiritual in the process of creation, he starts with 
a belief in devolution. There is no satisfactory explanation of why the infinite, 
self-existent, self-sufficient Spirit should start dropping egos to the lowest 
level of sentience and consciousness. 

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have inculcated a belief in creation ex 
nihilo by a voluntary act of the Creator at a particular moment of time. In 
Rumi's view there is no creation in time because time itself is created and is 
a category of phenomenal consciousness which views events in serial time, 
and mystic consciousness diving into the spiritual ground of being apprehends 
reality as non-spatial and non-temporal. We see here the Neo-Platonic influ- 
ence replacing the orthodox Islamic concept of creation in time. Instead of 
creation in time, we have eternal emergence of egos. Rumi has repeated in 
many places his view of the eternity of spirits. "I existed when there were 
neither names nor the things that are named." 

We see him moving only one step with Plotinus in conceding that there is 
emanation instead of creation in time, and then he suddenly parts company 
with him. Starting with initial unexplainable devolution he becomes a creative 
evolutionist. All beings have emerged from God by a kind of overflow of the 
divine spirit, but every being or ego is impelled irresistibly by an urge to 
return to its origin. This urge which Riimi calls love becomes the evolutionary 
principle of all existence. Existence, viewed phenomenally, is graded, the 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

egos in one grade being superior or inferior in self-realization. The essence 
of all egos or monads is spiritual which may be called divine because they 
have all emerged from the self-same divine principle. The doctrine of the Fall 
of Adam is reinterpreted in Ruml's metaphysics. The original state from 
which the ego fell was not the traditional paradise of gardens and streams 
but the unitary ground of divinity. The Fall is concerned not only with man 
or the disobedience of Adam and Eve, but is a universal cosmic phenomenon. 
One might say metaphorically that monads in the realm of matter and vegetable 
and animal kingdoms are all fallen angels striving to return to their original 
divine ground. The principle that everything has a natural tendency to return 
to its origin, holds good in all spheres and applies to every existent. Previous 
to Rumi we find among Greek thinkers guesses about the biological evolution 
of birds and beasts and man having been gradually differentiated and developed 
from fish due to environmental changes and the needs of adaptation, but this 
speculation was never developed any farther either by materialistic thinkers 
like Democritus or idealists and realists like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. 
We find a doctrine of graded existence and a theory of development in Aris- 
totle's concepts of form and matter and entelechies. Inorganic matter is 
organized into different species of plants because every plant realizes the 
idea of its species. Every realized form serves as matter for the embodiment 
of a still higher entelechy until we reach God who is pure idea or self- thinking 
thought unconcerned with the particularities of phenomenal existence and 
unrelated to creatures contaminated with matter. Matter for Aristotle is a 
negative end-concept without a shadow of reality because all reality belongs 
to ideas, and matter as such is bereft of any idea. Aristotle is not a monadologist 
like Rumi and Leibniz and for him the human ego also has a transitory 
phenomenal existence ; what is real in it belongs to universal reason and what- 
ever is personal or individual has no abiding value or reality. After Aristotle 
the doctrine of Emanation and Return is found in Plotinus. In his view also 
there is a gradation in existence which is a result of more or less distance 
from the original ineffable One who is devoid of all qualities like the Nirguna 
Brahman, the Absolute of Advaita Veddnta. The human souls, according to 
Plotinus, can rise again to their original ground by discarding material and 
biological urges. This leads logically to a negativistic, quietistic, and ascetic 
view of life of which we find no trace in Rumi because of the Islamic ethics 
of integration and the eternal value of the individual. For Aristotle the scheme 
of graded existence was eternally fixed and there was no idea of the evolution 
of species. In Plotinus, too, there is more of eternally graded devolutionary 
states of existences than an eternal urge to develop into higher and higher 
states which is so clearly depicted in the metaphysics of Rumi. Rumi touches 
Plotinus and Aristotle only tangentially and then develops a thesis of his 
own, not found before him in any speculative or religious metaphysics except 
that of the Ikhwan al-Safa and ibn Miskawaih. In the whole history of philo- 
sophy he is one of the outstanding evolutionary thinkers. He is not a mechanical 


Jalul al-Din Rumi 

or biological evolutionist like Darwin and Spencer. Bergson's creative evolution 
comes nearest to Rumi. For Bergson, too, life is creative and evolutionary; 
however, he believes this creative evolutionary process to be without any goal. 
But how could one say that life evolves unless there in an implicit idea of 
a goal towards which it moves ? For Rumi God is the ground as well as the goal 
of all existence, and life everywhere is a goal-seeking activity. Bergson de- 
veloped no concept of the self, nor is evolution for him a process of self- 
realization. Rumi tells us why life is creative and evolutionary and defines 
for us the nature of the creative urge. It was only in the last decade of his 
life that Bergson in his book The Tim Sources of Morality and Religion 
identified the elan vital with love and moved from philosophy to religion by 
accepting the prophets and the saints as individuals endowed with intuition 
and saturated with love which is the creative urge of evolutionary life. 

Rumi has presented his view in a language which conforms partially even 
with the view of materialistic and biological evolutionists. Like them he says 
that fife has evolved from matter, but for him matter was from the outset 
essentially and potentially spiritual. This removes the insoluble problem of 
lifeless and goalless matter evolving out of itself a germ of life which even 
in the lowest and initial stage is adaptive and goal-seeking. The Odyssey and 
voyage of the ego's self -discovery and its gradual unfoldment are given in 
Books III and IV of the Matknawi with great definiteness. "For several 
epochs I was flying about in space like atoms of dust without a will, after 
which I entered the inorganic realm of matter. Crossing over to the vegetable 
kingdom I lost all memory of my struggle on the material plane. From there 
I stepped into the animal kingdom, forgetting all my life as a plant, feeling 
only an instinctive and unconscious urge towards the growth of plants and 
flowers, particularly during the springtime as suckling babies feel towards 
the mother that gave them birth. Rising in the scale of animality I became a 
man pulled up by the creative urge of the Creator whom one knows. I continued 
advancing from realm to realm developing my reason and strengthening the 
organism. There was ground for ever getting above the previous types of 
reason. Even my present rationality is not a culmination of mental evolution. 
This too has to be transcended, because it is still contaminated with self- 
seeking, egoistic biological urges. A thousand other types of reason and con- 
sciousness shall emerge during the further course of my ascent; a wonder of 
wonders ! " 

The same course is traced in Book III of the Mathnawi hinting at higher 
stages till the ego reaches back the divinity from which it had emanated, a 
state which cannot be grasped by our present rationality nor could imagina- 
tion visualize it. No category of reason or phenomenal existence applies to 
this state: it is ultra-existential. We must note here that it is not an impersonal 
existence which goes on moving from phase to phase but selves or egos from 
the very start which are perpetually engaged in self-realization. Orthodox 
Islam like Christianity believes in the creation of the universe in time. The 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

souls are believed to be created with the birth of the individuals though after 
that they are destined to be immortal remaining eternally either in heaven 
or hell. But, according to Rumi, the category of time does not apply to the 
realm of the spirit, so the question of the temporal creation of egos is irrele- 
vant. For Rumi as for al-Ghazali time and space are categories of phenomenal 
consciousness only. He says about serial time, "You think in terms of the past 
and the future; when you get rid of this mode of consciousness, the problem 
will be solved." There is also a hint in the verses that follow that our concept 
of time is interlinked with space, an idea which has been mathematically and 
scientifically developed in modern times by Einstein. Rumi says that in the 
realm of divine light, which is non-spatial, serial time, divisible into past, 
present, and future, does not exist. Past and future are relative to the indi- 
vidual self. About space there are numerous verses in the Mathnawi and Rumi 
repeatedly points to his conviction, which may either be the result of spiritual 
experience or an epistemological thesis, that in the realm of the spirit the 
category of space does not hold and has no relevance. The Qur'anic verse 
about divine light which definitely states that it is non-spatial, la sharqiyyah 
wa la ghnrMyyah, supports this view, and Rumi's intellect and experience 
must have been strengthened by this scriptural corroboration. As the human 
spirit too is basically divine, as corroborated by the Qur'an in which it is 
said that God breathed His own spirit into Adam, man also, diving into his 
own real self, can realize the non-spatial nature not only of his own reality but 
also of all existence viewed as noumena and not as phenomena. He exhorts 
man to realize this basic fact both about himself and the universe. "You 
live in space but your reality is non-spatial; close this shop situated in space 
and open a shop on the other side to which your real non-spatial spirit belongs. 
The ground of this spatial universe is non-spatial; space is a phenomenal 
creation of that which in itself is not space." Rumi develops this thesis still 
further. He says that space is the basis of division and multiplicity, in which 
the basic unity of the cosmic spirit is infinitely pulverized and atomized. 
Human egos are also basically one. It is only material frames in which the 
selves at the biological level create the illusion of diversity. Here too Rumi 
gets support from the Qur'anic teaching that there is a fundamental unity 
in the multiplicity of human egos. "It is He who created you of one spirit." 1 
Rumi uses similes to make his meaning clear. He says that sunlight entering 
houses through many windows is split up by spatial barriers but remains 
essentially the same. In another place he says that lamps lightening a hall 
may be many but the fight that emanates from them and envelops all of them 
negates the illusion of separateness. It is a common trait of Rumi that he 
first uses logical and philosophical arguments and then invariably tries to 
enlighten the mind of the reader by similes and analogies, but at the end 
finding the intellect incurably bound by spatial visualization and fettered by 

Jalal al-Din Rumi 

the logic of identity and contradiction, refers invariably to ultra-rational 
spiritual experience which realizes reality as unity and conceives diversity 
as mere phenomenal appearance. Talking of a group of divinized souls, he 
says that they feel themselves as the waves of the self-same sea whose diversity 
is created by wind. He relates a spiritual experience in which the spirit transcends 
our spatially interlinked serial time and enters a dimension of Being wherein 
the mutually exclusive diversity of psychological processes is negated and a 
man's causal t h i n ki n g, with the problems that it creates and attempts to 
solve, exists no more. As it is a spaceless reality that manifests itself into 
extended and divisible spaces, creating the illusion of separated things and 
events, so it is a timeless spirit that creates the categories of serial time with 
the illusory division of past, present, and future. It is possible for the human 
spirit to enter this non-dimensional dimension of consciousness and reality. 
Such an experience does not give one knowledge in the ordinary sense ; it is 
a consciousness of wonder. 

As we have remarked already, two lines of intellectual and moral and spirit- 
ual development running their course independently for more than a millen- 
nium had converged in Hellenized Christianity, of which the first unmistakable 
evidence is the Gospel of John which identified Jesus with Logos. But after this 
amalgamation the distinctive features of the message of Jesus were not lost and 
remained recognizably different. Jesus identified God with love, while Hellenism 
had made reason the ground of reality. Islam too was an heir to Israelite 
prophetic outlook and grappled with the Hellenistic thought incorporating 
some of its elements and repudiating others which were antagnostic to the 
fundamentals of its ideology. Islam attempted a synthesis of reason, love, 
and law, and an integration of the higher and the lower aspects, not sacrificing 
the lower and annihilating it altogether but transmuting the lower into the 
higher. It means surrender to the will of God which is not a passive attitude 
of submission but a continued volitional effort to attune oneself to eternal 
realities of which the focus is God. Whatever Islam took over as its heritage, 
it transformed it in the process of synthesis and assimilation, until the 
product became qualitatively different. In the opening chapter of the Qur'an 
we find God neither as the self-thinking thought of Aristotle nor the top point 
of the Platonic pyramid of ideas but a conscious and eternally creative will. 
The basic attributes of God given in this surah are: (1) Eabb al-'alamln (the 
Nourisher of all realms and beings), (2) Rahman and Rahlm (Creative Love 
and Forgiving Love), and (3) Malik Yaum al-Din (the Master of the Day of 
Judgment). We see here that love is prior to law and justice and hence 
is more basic to the nature of God, who is the Ultimate Reality. The Western 
critics of Islam are wont to take original Islam as concerned more with 
unconditional obedience to the revealed will of God than with an attitude 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

of love towards Him. They forget that this obedience is to be rendered to 
a being who is essentially a lover; as Rahman, He creates out of love, as 
Babb He sustains out of love, and as Rahim He forgives out of love. It is 
a misrepresentation of Islam to assert that the concept of love is foreign to 
it and was adopted from Christianity and philosophies of Sufis and mystical 
metaphysicians. The fact is that what mystics and thinkers like Rumi 
did was to elaborate the meaning of love, not only making it basic to 
religious and ethical life but giving it a cosmic significance as a creative, 
ameliorative, and evolutionary urge in all creatures and at all strata of 
existence. It is stated in the Qur'an that God has enjoined love (rahmah) 
on Himself 2 and that it encompasses everything. 3 In another verse the extent 
of paradise is given as the extent of the heavens and the earth, which means 
entire existence. The Prophet was asked by a non-Muslim where hell would 
be located if paradise covered all existence. He said, "Where is the night 
when the day dawns ?" meaning thereby that when the love of God becomes 
manifest it shall be revealed as covering entire existence. 

The cosmic significance of love could be derived from the Qur'anic teaching 
but it required acquaintance with other ideologies to help Muslim thought in its 
elaboration. So far as theories and speculations are concerned, we can discover 
distinctively pre-Islamic concepts in Rumi. Here a passage may be quoted 
from Khalifah Abdul Hakim's book, The Metaphysics of Rumi : "So far as the 
theories of love are concerned, a part of his arguments and views can be directly 
traced back to Plato who has had a decisive influence on all mysticism, both 
Islamic and Christian, by bis conception of a supersensuous Reality, as well 
as Eros [love] as a cosmical power. Rumi's Love as an experience was not a 
product of any theory; as something intimately personal, it cannot be a 
subject of criticism. But the conceptual apparatus that he employs to philo- 
sophise about love requires to be understood in its historical connections. The 
contents of [Plato's two Dialogues] Phaedrus and Symposium . . . were 
not unknown to the thinkers of Islam. Ibn Sina's Fragment on Love* is 
mostly a reproduction of the dialogue in [Plato's] Symposium. . . . Love as 
the movement towards Beauty which being identical with Goodness and Truth 
represents Perfection and the Highest Idea, and Love, as the inherent desire 
of the individual for immortality ; . . . given by Avicenna is a simple repetition 
of the Platonic theory of Love. The processes of Assimilation, Growth, [and] 
Reproduction are so many manifestations of Love. All things are moving 
towards Eternal Beauty and the worth of a thing is proportionate to its 
realisation [or assimilation] of that beauty." 5 

8 Ibid., vi, 12, 54. 

* Ibid., vii, 156. 

* This fragment on love forms part of his collected works preserved in the 
British Museum Library and has been edited by N. A. F. Mehren (Leiden, 1894). 

5 Khalifah Abdul Hakim, The Metaphysics of Rumi, Institute of Islamic Culture, 
Lahore, 1959, pp. 44-45. 


Jalal al-Din Rumi 

Newton explained the movement of heavenly bodies by physical gravitational 
pull and Kant promulgated the nebular hypothesis to explain the origin of 
heavenly bodies out of incandescent vapour. Hegel explained the ever- 
progressing dynamism of Nature and Mind as the dialectical unfolding in time 
of the Eternal Absolute. Darwin presented a biological view of the creation 
of higher species by the blind urges of the struggle for existence and life's 
adaptation with the environment. Rumi's evolutionary concept comprehends 
all these partial and fragmentary theories, taking them up in a grand synthesis. 
Like Hegel he is a believer in the Eternal Absolute, but to explain the dynamism 
of all life and history he resorts to cosmic love instead of the dialectic of 
thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Similarly, Rumi has an intuition of the gravi- 
tational pull of atoms and masses of matter but, instead of explaining it by 
mechanical dynamics, he resorts to love as the fundamental urge which creates 
attractions and affinities. "All atoms in the cosmos are attracted to one 
another like lovers, everyone is drawn towards its mate by the magnetic 
pull of love. Heavenly bodies draw the earth towards them in a welcoming 
embrace. It is on account of this cosmic pull of love that earth remains suspended 
in space like a lamp, the forces from all directions pulling it by equilibrated 
attraction not allowing it to fly away or drop down in space, as if the stellar 
dome of heaven were a magnetic dome inside which a piece of iron is suspended 
without visible cords." According to Rumi, the same force that creates heavenly 
bodies out of nebulae resulting in stars and planets and systems proceeds 
further and generates life because love by its essence is creative. As atoms 
by their affinities conglomerate in molecules so in a further evolutionary 
urge they emerge as life cells which first appear in vegetation and then advance 
towards animality. Hegel said that creation proceeds through a synthesis of 
the opposites, but Rumi says that these apparent opposites were already akin 
by the affinity of love. Love originates in God and moves towards God who 
is essentially a creator : therefore, love as it advances from phase to phase in 
the upward movement of creation brings into being new forms of existence 
at every step. 

We have already stated that Rumi is a monadologist and when he talks 
of atoms and their mutual attractions he is really talking of egos that are in 
the process of realizing their divinely -rooted self-consciousness. It is this urge 
for self-realization that makes the egos act as they do. As their source is God, 
so their goal is also God, and the process of moving towards this goal creates 
new perfections at every stage. Everywhere there is life and life is essentially 
a goal-seeking activity. The lower merges into the higher; it is not a process 
of progressive annihilation but assimilation. Rumi says that the heavenly 
movements are not blindly mechanical but are waves in an infinite ocean of 
love. If cosmic love were not there, all existence would get frozen and shrink 
into nothingness. The inorganic would refuse to merge and emerge into vegeta- 
tion and vegetation would not be lifted up into animal life nor would life 
ascend towards the mind and spirit. The egos like infinite swarms of 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

locusts are flying towards the harvest of life. Without love, nothing would 

The religion of a mystic philosopher like Rumi is a universal religion which 
could not be enclosed within any orthodox or dogmatic boundaries. His religion 
is not the creed of any one particular religious community but being the 
religion of the universe is a universal religion. It is the religion of glowing 
stars, of flowing streams, and of growing trees. Whose belief, intuition, and 
practice accord with this outlook, he has attained the truth. Religion if it 
is genuine is not a blind faith about the understandable unknown; it is an 
ever-present reality perceived and lived. It is the alchemy of life which through 
the magic of love transforms the lower into the higher. We see in ourselves 
that bread is transubstantiated into life and mind. Could any narrow scientific 
intellect explain this miraculous transmutation 1 In the Aristotelian logic of 
identity everything remains what it is, and in mechanistic materialism there 
is no way of explaining the goal-seeking tendency of life from non-purposive 
aimless atoms. Life has an infinite assimilative power; there is nothing that 
could remain eternally foreign to it. As fire burns even a dross and converts 
it into a pure flame, so every happening in life is capable of being converted 
into light and life. 

The universe, according to Rumi, is a realm of love. In comparison with 
love, law and reason are secondary phenomena. It is love that creates to 
fulfil itself and reason steps in later to look at it retrospectively, discovering 
laws and uniformities to seek the threads of unity in the diversities of manifested 
life. Language was not created by any preconceived grammar, nor do the 
flowers blossom by any conscious planning or according to the laws of botany 
or aesthetics. Rational thinking follows creation but does not precede it, 
Rationalization, being a secondary phenomenon, is not by itself a creative 
force. As Hegel has said, philosophy always comes too late only to contemplate 
retrospectively what the dynamism of history has already created and com- 
pleted. Cosmic love transcends all creeds and all philosophies and so the religion 
of love could never be completely identified with any orthodoxy, dogmatism, or 
speculative theory. Rumi says that there is no contradiction between universal 
love and universal reason, but when the human intellect narrows itself, it 
begins to take a part for a whole, making the mistake of identifying a frag- 
mentary phenomenon with the whole of reality. Human intellect, divorced 
from universal reason, remains at the biological and utilitarian level, and 
language which is the outward garb of the intellect possesses no vocabulary 
for the description of the intuition of cosmic love. Human consciousness 
remains generally at the biological level and its perceptions, affections, and 
conations are governed directly or indirectly by biological needs. This biological 
instrument Rumi calls khirad or particular reason ('aql-i juzwi) to distinguish 
it from universal reason, which is an ally of the intuition of fife. The particular 
reason which exultingly calls itself scientific reason, capable of explaining all 
reality and solving the riddle of the universe, proves to be utterly useless 

Jala! al-Dln Rumi 

when faced with the intuition of life and love, and, instead of gracefully accept- 
ing its inadequacy, begins foolishly to deny the reality that it cannot com- 

The deep impress of Rumi which has continued to develop through the 
centuries in modern times produced a disciple of the intellectual calibre and 
poetic genius of Iqbal. The reasons for this influence may be briefly summed 
up as follows. Here was a man who, like the great prophets and saints, did not 
accept religious faith at second hand; for him it was a personal experience 
more convincing than either logical argument or sense-perception. But religious 
experience, if it rests in its subjectivity, cannot be communicated; it cannot 
induce conviction in others who do not have it. Rumi deplores the inadequacy 
of human speech to convey it and also points to the limitations of sense- 
experience as well as inductive or deductive reasoning of what he calls the 
particular intellect which deals with reality piecemeal. But side by side with 
his ultra-sensuous and ultra -rational mystic experience of the all-enveloping 
spirit in which every ego lives and moves and has its being, he presents him- 
self to us as an acute logician and a skilled metaphysician. When you add his 
lyrical fervour and poetic genius to his remarkable capacities, he begins to 
tower above all those who are either mere mystics or mere philosophers or 
mere poets. One finds in him anticipations of Kant who tried to prove pheno- 
menality or subjectivity of time, space, and causality ; anticipations of Bergson 
in his criticism of the intellect and in his conception of elan vital and creative 
evolution ; and anticipations of Nietzsche in his conviction that present human- 
ity must be superseded in a further advance towards new dimensions of 
being. He is an idealist and spiritualist of the highest order. He is fundamentally 
an evolutionary thinker who conceived of existence not in static but dynamic 
terms. The unconscious urge to rise to higher levels is implicit in all existence ; 
the inorganic is always ready for being assimilated by the organic; in every 
entity there is an upward surge from within and a pull from above. The 
inertia of matter on which Newton based his physics and astronomy is declared 
to be an illusion, the reality of which is infinite motion or restlessness of what 
Democritus and the thirteenth/nineteenth-century physicists call atoms but 
Rumi calls egos. Rumi re-establishes the reality of the world and the dignity 
of all life, particularly of human life which has become self-conscious and 
conscious of its divine origin and goal. All movement is from God unto God. 
Rumi performs the admirable task of ridding mysticism of quietism and 
irrationalism. He establishes with all the force of his genius the reality of free- 
will which is vouchsafed to man to identify itself freely with the cosmic will. 
He has brought out the essence of universal religion as creative love. He 
preaches the infinite potentialities of life because all egos have their origin 
in the Infinite Self and are restless and nostalgic in order to realize their 
infinity. Many creeds and philosophies had declared life to be an illusion, but 
Rumi declares life at all grades to be an Eternal Reality; it is not life but 
death which is an illusion. The purpose of life is more life, higher and better. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Nietzsche criticizes bitterly all creeds that say "No" to life and says that 
there are only two kinds of creeds: those that say "Yes" to life and those 
that say "No" to it. Rumi's is a life-embracing creed. Although one of the 
greatest mystics of all time, he was not a body-torturing and self-annihilating 
mystic. In a verse he talks of great souls as great hunters of life trying to 
capture and assimilate the spirituality of angels, saints, and prophets, finally 
aiming at capturing the cosmic spirit itself for perpetual and eternal enrich- 
ment of the self, actualizing its infinite potentialities. He wants you not to 
gather your garments to prevent them from getting wet but to plunge a 
thousand times in the sea of life. Fight for spiritual conquest, and not flight from 
life's challenges, is the way of life that he preaches and practises. Only for a 
sleeping soul life is an empty dream; creeds of illusion are the products of 
lovers of sleep and worshippers of the night. About the infinity of life and its 
restlessness he says, "Human egos have experienced the shaping of universe 
after universe; could you say which of them mirrors the essence of your self? 
Is it not that the seven heavens are below the empyrean but our flight is beyond 
the empyrean? Neither the heavens nor the empyrean could be our goal; we 
have to fly towards the rose-garden of union with the divine." 

For Rumi life is an alchemy perpetually engaged in transformation and 
transubstantiation. You see before your eyes earth, water, light, and air being 
transformed into plant life, plant life turning into animal life by assimila- 
tion, and animal life, ascending to mind ; why couldn't mind be transformed 
into a divinized spirit ? "They say, copper turns into gold by alchemy, but 
the copper of our life converts itself not only into gold but becomes an alchemy 
itself with the quality of spiritualizing whatever it touches." 

The space at our disposal compels us to finish this brief survey of Rumi's 
outlook on life with two of his lyrics: in one he gives the characteristics 
of the "Man of God" and in the other depicts a mystic's search for God 
through the emblems of various creeds, ending in finding God within himself. 
"The 'Man of God' is intoxicated without wine and full without meat; he is 
struck with wonder and cares not about food and sleep. He is a king in 
a dervish's cloak; he is a treasure found in a ruin. The constituents of 
a man of God are not the four elements — earth, air, water, and fire. He is a 
boundless ocean of the spirit containing countless pearls. The heaven within 
him contains numerous suns and moons. He gains the truth by knowledge 
from God and not from books. He stands above creeds and heresies, and he 
is beyond right and wrong. He has ridden away from Non-Being in glory 
and majesty. He is hidden, O Candle of Faith! such a 'Man of God' do you 
seek and find." 

Rumi is talking here of the ideal man or the ideal of humanity. He is hidden 
in the nature of every man. The purpose of life is to reach this perfection. In 
another verse he has repeated the story of Diogenes moving about in the 
market-place of Athens with a lamp in his hand in broad daylight seeking Man 
in a crowd of men who according to him were only counterfeiting humanity. 


Jalal al-Din Rumi 

When he is told that no such being could be found, he replies, "I am craving 
to find him who is not found." 

Religion has been aptly defined by Hoffding as faith in the conservation 
of values. According, to Rumi's mystical metaphysics, the spirit is the origin 
and locus of all intrinsic and abiding values. The Real which is manifested 
in the human spirit is eternal and immortal. He exhorts human beings not to 
lament the transitoriness of phenomenal life because that which is real can 
never perish. Things in space emerge and disappear; forms and shapes come 
and go. The streams of phenomenal life continue to flow and pass away; 
lament not their vanishing because the inexhaustible eternal source remains 
undiminished and shall continue to issue in many more streams. 

We must note that here we have no blank qualities, no transcendent infinity 
of a static Absolute, but a perpetually gushing fountain of eternal life, from 
which all egos quaff as much as they can. Mortality belongs to appearances 
alone; not life but death is an illusion. Every ego is destined to be immortal 
by participation in life eternal. The purpose of life is self-perpetuation and 
self-enrichment not only through the reproduction of the species but by the 
upward and forward urge of every ego. life moves by a series of negations 
and assertions ; self-realization cannot proceed without self-abnegation. Every 
stage reached by an ego has to be negated and transcended so that "on their 
dead selves' stepping stones men may rise to higher things." Rumi says that 
from the very outset life has placed a ladder before you so that you may rise 
step by step. After this he reiterates his fundamental hypothesis that life has 
advanced from the inorganic to the organic, traversing the vegetable and the 
animal kingdom, reaching the stage of reason, knowledge, and faith, until 
man, with his body which was only a part of the earth, evolves a mind and 
spirit and becomes a whole. But even after having become conscious of infinity, 
the voyage of discovery through the infinite continues. For a long time it 
was a journey towards God, but now it will be a journey in God's infinity, 
from earth to heaven, from humanity to angelhood till the finite embraces 
the Infinite: man the Son of God becomes one with the Father. It is the 
bodies that become old and decrepit; life remains eternally youthful. 

The Qur'an says about the creation of man that man's body was made of 
clay, but the material frame having been perfected, God breathed from His 
own spirit into him. Rumi in his discourses collected in Fihi ma fihi has quoted 
a tradition of the Prophet wherein it is said that Adam's clay was kneaded in 
forty days. The Qur'an says that God's day is an epoch of a hundred thousand 
years. This mode of expression is not meant to convey an exact mathematical 
figure but is an idiomatic or rhetorical expression for an immensely long 
period. Accordingly, God's forty days might mean hundreds of millions of 
years. Rumi concludes from this that man's bodily organism too did not come 
into existence by the creative fiat of God in a moment but is a product of a 
long process of evolution. It was after the perfecting of the physical organism 
that the spirit of the Lord became manifest in man awakening the eternal 

A History of Muslim Philosophy- 

essence of the human ego. With the emergence of this consciousness the human 
ego realizes that it is not a product of this evolution but, in its essence, is prior 
to the phenomenal course of the universe. After this realization the universe 
with its diversity of objects is viewed not as a cause but as an effect, because 
the ego pours existence into its own moulds with the categories of time, space, 
and causation. Rumi says that the body is not the cause of the mind but is 
created by the mind as its instrument for working on the material or pheno- 
menal plane. What we consider to be the qualities of an independently existing 
matter exist only in relation to a perceiving mind. In a lyric, Rumi describes 
his search for God after having realized the nature of his own ego. He moves 
from creed to creed and dogma to dogma. Not finding Him in temples, institu- 
tions, and symbols, he returns unto himself and discovers Him there in the 
sanctuary of his own heart. He is not satisfied with any creed until God is 
directly experienced by him. Here is one of the finest mystical lyrics of Rumi : 

"I existed at a time when there were neither the names nor the objects of 
which they were the names; the names and the objects named came into 
existence in relation to us at a time when egos were not yet individualized 
and there was not yet any question of 'I' and 'We.' I searched for God among 
the Christians and on the Cross but therein found Him not. I went into the 
ancient temples of idolatry ; no trace of Him was there. I entered the mountain 
cave of Hira (where the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet) and then 
went as far as Qandhar but God found I not, neither in low nor in high places. 
With set purpose I fared to the summit of Mount Caucasus and found there 
only 'anqd's habitation. Then I directed my search to the Ka'bah, the resort 
of old and young ; God was not there even. Turning to philosophy I inquired 
about Him from ibn Sina but found Him not within his range. I fared then 
to the scene of the Prophet's experience of a great divine manifestation only 
a 'two bow-lengths' distance from him' but God was not there even in that 
exalted court. Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him; 
He was nowhere else." 

This is the experience and language of the great mystics of all spiritual 
religions who were not satisfied with institutional religion, and who based their 
spiritual life on personal experiences and convictions not derived from theologies 
and philosophies. These experiences are the common heritage of all great 
souls and the common ground on which great religions meet, disregarding 
intellectual formulation of dogmas and diversities of modes of Avorship which 
have made religion a dividing instead of a unitive and harmonizing force. 
Rumi is one of those rare saints and mystics whose intellectual fibre and 
creative moral and social effort is not weakened by subjective emotional 
experiences unrelated to the realities of everyday life. In him spirituality, 
rationality, and universal morality have found a healthy synthesis. God, 
universe, and humanity are embraced in a single all-encompassing vision, the 
vision of creative love. Tennyson ends his "In Memoriam" with a stanza 
which sums up Ruml's vision and creed : 


Mahmud ghabistari, al- Jili, and Jami 

"That God, which ever lives and loves, 

One God, one law, one element, 

And one far off divine event, 

To which the whole creation moves." 
His appeal to the philosophers of religion, epistemologists, and metaphysi- 
cians is as great as his appeal to the mystics of all religions. Neither modern 
philosophy nor modern science has left him behind. For about a century now 
the entire philosophical and scientific thought has been dominated by the 
concept of evolution, and it is the evolutionary concept that has been mainly 
responsible for sabotaging ancient theologies and views of creation, resulting 
in almost universal scepticism and agnosticism. Theology everywhere has 
been making an attempt to save the abiding realities and values of religion 
by accepting universal evolution as an indubitable fact and recasting old 
beliefs and dogmas. Rumi performed this task six centuries ago in a manner 
that can offer guidance to all who want to reconcile religion with philosophy 
and science. 


Mathnawi, lithographed edition, Lahore; English translation by R. A. Nicholson, 
London; Fihi ma fihi, lithographed edition, Lahore; Khalifah Abdul Hakim, The 
Metaphysics of Rumi, Lahore, 1959; R. A. Nicholson, Selected Poems from the 
Dlwan-i Shams-i Tabriz, London; Rumi: The Mystic, London; Afzal Iqbal, The 
Life and Thought of Rumi, Bazm-i Iqbal, Lahore. 

Chapter XLIII 


Mahmud Shabistari, so called after the name of Shabistar. a village near 
Tabriz in Adharbaijan, was born about the middle of the seventh/thirteenth 
century and died about 720/1320. Little is known of his life. His Qulshan-i 
Rdz (The Garden of Mystery) is a poetical exposition of the doctrine of the 
Unity of Being. It was written in 710/1311 in response to certain questions 
about mystical philosophy asked by one Amir Husaini from Khurasan. 

The exposition of the doctrine of the Unity of Being in the book adds 
nothing to what had earlier been said by ibn 'Arabi. Mahmud, however, is 
much clearer and much more precise than his spiritual teacher. Being, by its 
very definition, he says, is existent, and Non-Being, non-existent. There is 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

nothing in existence except the One. The contingent and the necessary were 
never separate ; they existed from eternity as one. If you look at one side of 
the One, it is one, and if you see the other side, it becomes many — the only 
difference being that the aspect of unity is real, while that of plurality is 
illusory. Reality is one but its names are many, and it is this plurality which 
becomes the cause of multiplicity. 1 

Essence as such is beyond our knowledge or comprehension. But, according 
to Shabistari, this inability on our part to know God's essence arises because of 
His nearness to us. Essence as absolute light is as invisible to the eye as Non- 
Being which is absolute darkness. Nobody can look at the sun directly. But 
it can be seen as reflected in water. Relative non-being is like water. It serves 
as a mirror of the Absolute light in which is reflected the illumination of 
Haqq (truth). This relative non-being is the latent reality fain al-tkabitah) of 
ibn 'Arabi's system, which reflects the divine light in accordance with its 
natural propensities. The divine light as pure hght was a hidden treasure, 
but when it was reflected in the mirror, the treasure became manifest. But, 
in this process, the essence that was One became many. 2 

Shabistari then describes the process of descent of the One after the manner 
of ibn 'Arabi. The first manifestation of the essence is the universal reason 
('aql al-kulli), the stage of unity (ahadiyyah); the second is the universal 
soul fnafs al-kulli). Then come Throne ( l arsh), the heavenly Chair (kursi), 
seven heavenly spheres, four elements, the three kingdoms of minerals, 
vegetables, and animals. The last in the series is man who is the acme of 
creation. Though temporally the last in the series, man is logically the first, 
as tree is potentially prior to the seed. All the world was created for 
him while he was created for himself, as the embodiment of God's highest 
manifestation. But he possesses certain baser elements which, however, are 
essential for his moral progress. A mirror, to be able to reflect things, must 
have one side totally blackened. If it were all crystal, it would cease to serve 
as a mirror. 

As man is the final cause of creation, everything is made to obey his com- 
mand. All things are manifestations of the different names of God, but, being 
the reflection of the Named, man comprises within himself all the names; 
therefore, all the creation is within him. He is the most marvellous creation 
of the Lord and owes everything to Him ; his power, knowledge, and will are 
all God's. 

Reason is perfectly useless, according to Shabistari. Its is a long, winding, 
and arduous path. A philosopher is like a cross-eyed man who sees duality 
everywhere. He starts with the objects of the world conceived as real. On 
this basis he argues the existence of the Necessary, as distinct from and other 
than the contingent. Arguing on the basis of a continuous series of causes and 

1 Gulshan-i Raz, Question 12. 
i Ibid., Q. 2. 

Mahmud Shabistari. al-JIli, and Jami 

effects, Shabistari asserts that the Necessary Being is the Primal Cause of the 
process of creation. The whole process of reasoning, according to him, is wrong. 
There is no possibility of the knowledge of God through the category of 
contingency as the latter does not possess any similarity to the former. "It 
amounts to discovering the burning sun with the help of the dim light of a 
tiny candle." The best method, therefore, is to give up logical reason and 
enter the valley of gnosis. 3 Knowledge gained through discursive reason leads 
one to sleep, while gnosis awakens one from slumber. Like Abraham, one must 
go beyond the divinity of the stars, the sun, and the moon which, according 
to him, represent sense-perception, imagination, and reason, respectively. 4 

In the sixth question of Gul$han-i Raz the Shaikh explicitly rejects the use- 
fulness of reason in the mystic search for truth. He holds that there is "a 
way" beyond reason by which man is able to know the secret of reality. 
This intuitive power of man is hidden within him as fire is implicit in the 
stone. When this fire blazes forth, all the world becomes bright and ulumined. 

Discussing the value of knowledge in the tenth question he says that by 
knowledge he does not mean the device by which people gain worldly power 
and prestige ; for that is contrary to the spirit of a true mystic. Knowledge is 
useful only when it leads one to right action, action that springs from the 
heart. Shabistari also suggests a study of both the sources of knowledge 
mentioned in the Qur'an — the external world (afaq) and the internal world 
of self-consciousness (anfus). But in practice the mystics' study of the internal 
world has always led them to emphasize the illusory character of the external 

The account of moral qualities given by Shabistari is a mere reproduction 
of Platonic and Aristotelian theories. Wisdom (hikmah), moral purity ('iff ah), 
bravery (shaja l ah), and justice ('addlah) are the main moral qualities. He 
discusses briefly the Aristotelian principle of the mean. Paradise is the result of 
following this middle path, while adopting either of the extremes would lead 
to hell. When moral purification is attained, man is vouchsafed divine light 
(tajatti) which illumines his soul and raises him to the highest level. Saints 
and prophets are the persons who fall in the category of the illumined souls. 

This manifestation (tajalli) of God is not only in things that are good but 
also in things which, in common usage, we call evil. As God is the only being 
and the only cause of everything, so all things without distinction manifest 
His light. The logical position of pantheism is that good and evil are all alike 
and, as manifestations of God, stand on an equal footing. But when we come 
to the ordinary common-sense view, we distinguish between them and attri- 
bute good to God and evil to Satan. 5 

Like all other pantheists, Shabistari is completely deterministic. He holds 
that the so-called sense of freedom possessed by man is due to his consciousness 

3 Ibid., Q. 1. 
* Ibid., Q. 2. 
5 Ibid., Q. 10. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

of selfhood as an entity distinct from God. Man is by nature non-existent 
and, therefore, it is meaningless to attribute freedom to him. Believers in 
freedom of choice are Zoroastrians who make a distinction between the god 
of good and the god of evil. To attribute power, will, and action to man is 
wrong and in this matter, according to him, both the Mu'tazilites and the 
Ash'arites have gone astray — the former in saying that man is free in his 
choice and the latter in making man responsible for his deeds due to the 
power of "acquisition" attributed to him. 

According to Shabistari, man is not created for exercising moral respon- 
sibility, but for some other purpose. He does not explain what that other 
purpose is. His commentator, Lahiji, however, adds that it is to serve as a 
polished mirror for the manifestation of God's essence, attributes, and names. 
Can we ascribe any freedom to the mirror in reflecting objects ? For everyone 
of us, actions were predetermined. God's actions are inscrutible. "Can you 
explain," he asks, "why one man is born Muhammad and another abu Jahl ?" 
Man's dignity lies in being under compulsion and not in having a share in 

But, then, why is man held responsible for his deeds ? Is it not injustice ? 
The Shaikh thinks that it is not injustice but an argument in favour of God's 
absolute power and arbitrariness. Again, the object of making man responsible 
for deeds over which he has no control is to compel him to renounce this 
world for ever, as he is elementally incapable of fulfilling the obligation of 
following the right path and obeying God's Law, i.e., Shari'ah.* 

What are the steps by which an individual reaches the stage of perfection ? 
He is born, according to him, as the acme of creation, the purest of the pure, 
and the highest of the high. But due to his descent into the phenomenal world, 
he comes down to the lowest level. His state at this stage is directly opposite 
to the state of unity. But due to mumination which he receives through his 
intuitive powers or his rational capacity, man realizes his weakness and then 
sets on a journey backward. It is travelling from contingency to necessity, 
from plurality to unity, from evil to good. 

There are three stages in this journey. The first is called absorption. Here 
the light of God shines through his actions so that the mystic regards the 
actions of everything as illusory. Nothing besides God possesses any causal 
power. At the second stage the divine light shines through God's attributes 
and so the Sufi regards the attributes of everything else as merged in God. 
The last stage comes when the mystic receives mumination from the very 
essence and sees the real state of affairs. For him nothing is existent except 
He and the being of all things is derived solely from Him. When he reaches 
this stage, he becomes perfect and attains a state of union with his Lord "so 
much so that neither angels nor prophets can equal him. The whole circle of 
existence is covered and man reaches the point from where he started." 7 

• Ibid., Q. 9. 
' Ibid., Q. 4. 

Mahmud Shabistari. al-Jili, and Jami 

The religious Law (Shari'ah), the mystic Path (Tarlqah), and Truth 
(Haqiqah) — all go to form the perfect man. Shari'ah. according to the Shaikh, 
is like the protecting shell of the almond. It is useful to a certain stage. When 
the stage of perfection is reached, the shell becomes useless and is better 
thrown away. Nevertheless, a perfect Sufi needs religion — not for himself but 
for others. 

Shabistari follows the general trend of mystic writers in describing the 
nature of saintship (wildyah) and prophethood (nubuuxwah) . Saintship is a 
more general category than prophethood. Saints so called and prophets are all 
saints in the first instance. In a mystic saintship is hidden, while in a prophet 
it is manifest. A saint is a follower of the prophet in Law and in this he 
attains the highest position and becomes equal to the prophet in realizing 
union with the Lord. With the death of the Holy Prophet the first cycle of 
saintship, a cycle in which prophethood and saintship were both manifest in 
the world, came to an end. After the Final Prophet, saintship continued and 
the new cycle began to take its shape. One day the seal of saints will appear, 
who shall be the acme of saintship and, with his appearance, the cycle of the 
two worlds will come to an end. He will be the whole, of which all the 
previous saints were parts. Like the "Seal of the Prophets," he shall be a 
blessing to the whole world. He will succeed in bringing peace and security 
to man; justice and equity will reign. 8 The word "seal," according to ibn 
'Arabi, does not signify a mystic with whom saintship will come to an end, 
but with Shabistari. the seal of saints, like the "Seal of Prophets," would 
terminate saintship for ever. The last of the saints is the "seal" with whom 
the world will come to an end. 

This world of matter, however, being the locus of God's manifestation 
(tajalli) cannot come to an end at all. There shall be no time when the 
manifestation of Haqq can be said to have ceased. The present world and the 
world to come will meet and there is no dividing line between the two. The 
next world is something ever in the making. What we usually call this world 
and the next are mere names for what Shabistari. following ibn 'Arabi, calls the 
ever-new process of creation, an unending cycle of annihilation and re-creation. 

In the life to come, man would be without body but it would be some- 
thing subtle and transparent. Our deeds and mental dispositions of the present 
life would take concrete shape and become materialized in some tangible form. 
Good disposition will take the shape of light (paradise) and bad the shape of 
fire (hell). 9 

After death, the individuality of man shall vanish at last and many shall 
be dissolved into One. 10 Man shall be vouchsafed the beatific vision, but it 
will not be something external ; it will be a manifestation within himself. 11 

8 Ibid. 

• Ibid., Q. 11. 

10 Ibid. 

11 Ibid. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 


'Abd al-Karim b. Ibrahim al-Jili was born in 767/1365 and died in about 
832/1428. Except for the few references in his book, almost nothing is known 
about his life. He was the disciple of Shaikh Sharaf al-Din al-Jabarti and 
lived in Zabid (Yemen). He also visited India during his travels. He claims 
that he received mystic illumination which led him to write his well-known 
book, al-Insan al-Kamil fi Ma'rifat al-Aivakhir w-al-AwWil. Its object is to 
expound and express the truth. 

He holds that Absolute Being is one and that all multiplicity is illusory. 
"Absolute Being is the essence fain) of what we call the phenomenal world 
(Ichfllq) and God (Haqq). The Absolute Being manifests itself in two different 
realities, kftalq and Haqq." 12 

Essence, Attributes, and Names. — Absolute Essence is that to which names 
and attributes are ascribed. It is a Self (nafs) which exists by Itself. It 
deserves every name which Its perfection demands. No description in words 
can fully convey Its essence. A thing can be understood by another thing 
which is related to it positively or negatively, but there is nothing in the 
universe which is so related to the Absolute. It is Pure Being which is equal 
to Non-Being — a sum of contradictions. "It is two contradictories gathered in 
a unity and this sum of contradictions is not impossible." 13 It has two attri- 
butes : eternity and everlastingness ; two qualities : God (Haqq) and the world 
(hbnlq); two descriptions: eternity (qidam) and createdness (huduth); two 
names: Rabb and 'abd {Lord and slave). It has two faces: outward (visible), 
i.e!, the present world, and inward (invisible), i.e., the world to come. It has 
two predicates: necessity and possibility; two points of view: according to 
the first, It is non-existent for Itself and existent for others, while, according 
to the second, It is existent for Itself and non-existent for others ; two modes 
(ma'rifah): according to the one, It is positive (toujub) in one plane and 
negative in the other, while, according to the other, the position is reversed. 
With regard to Its Self (nafs), It is simple; with regard to Its form, It is 
compound; with regard to Its essence, It is unique; with regard to Its 
emanation, It is light; and with regard to Its indivisibility, It is darkness; 
and still It is beyond what we have said about It." 14 

It is clear that according to al-Jili reality is one 15 and belongs to divine 
Substance (jauhar) which has two different aspects: God and the world. 

12 'Abd al-Karim al-Jili, al-Insan al-Kamil, Urdu translation by Fadal Miran, 
Sufi Printing and Publishing Company, Pindi Baliauddin, p. 4. All references to 
al-Insan al-Kamil are to this Urdu translation. 

13 Ibid., p. 30. 

14 Ibid., pp. 30-32. 

15 Ibid., p. 27. He says that Being is of two kinds. One is Pure Being and that 
is the divine essence; the other is related to Not-Being and that is the phenomenal 


Mahmud ghabistari, al-Jili, and Jami 

Multiplicity is only subjective and relative. "You can say what you like. You 
are at liberty to say that the circle [of reality] is God and its inside is the 
world or that the circle is the world and its inside is God. It is God as well as the 
world." 16 "You should know that knowledge of that lofty essence is that you 
should realize through mystic experience that you are He and He is you. 
This is neither union (ittihdd) nor incarnation (fyulvl), for the slave is 
slave and the Lord is Lord : the slave does not become Lord, nor the Lord 
slave." 17 A true mystic or the perfect man is able to realize in his super- 
sensuous experience that multiplicity is only a subjective way of looking at 
things, otherwise reality that underlies it is one. 18 What we call the world is 
nothing but the manifestation of God. In another place, he says, "Just as 
God was present in eternity in the Dark Mist ('Ama') which is also called 
Reality of realities, Hidden Treasure and White [Pure] Chrysolite, so is He 
present now in all the things of the phenomenal world without incarnation 
(hulvl) and mixture (imtizdj). He is manifested in the parts and atoms of 
the phenomenal world without becoming many." 19 

Like ibn 'Arabi, he deals with the problem of transcendence and immanence 
as differentiating attributes of the essence which correspond to the twin 
characteristics of God and the world. Immanence (tasKbih) is the form of 
divine beauty which is manifested in all the things of the phenomenal world 
without any distinction. 20 The Christians are right when they say that Christ, 
Mary, and the Holy Ghost are all manifestations of God, but they are wrong 
when they limit this manifestation to three persons only. As a matter of 
fact, God is immanent in the whole world. 21 Any belief about reality that 
ignores any of these two characteristics, transcendence and immanence, is 
defective and wrong as is the case with Christianity for instance. Transcendence 
(tanzih), when applied to God, implies that, in spite of His manifestation in 
all things, He is above and beyond all of them. But this sort of transcendence, 
according to al-Jili, is related to immanence and, therefore, does not fully 
represent the true essence which is characterized by what he calls essential 
or eternal transcendence, as He is in Himself, which He alone can know and 
which none can claim to understand. He is, therefore, above even the tran- 
scendence which is asserted of Him in correlation with His immanence. 22 

Name (ism) is that which specifies the named in the understanding, pictures 

" Ibid., p. 39. 
" Ibid., p. 44. 

18 The Qur'anic verse (xxviii, 88) is usually translated as "Everything is liable to 
destruction except His Face." But al-Jili interprets the word wajhahu pantheistically 
and translates it as "its (i.e., thing's) essence," thereby implying that one reality 
subsists in all multiplicity; ibid., p. 36. 

19 Ibid., chapter 62, para 1. 

80 Ibid., chapter 11, pp. 69-70. 

21 He quotes several Qur'anic verses (xv, 85; xli, 53, etc.) to prove this point; 
ibid., p. 156. See also p. 145. 
" Ibid., pp. 67-68. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

it in the mind, brings it in imagination, arranges it in thought, preserves it 
in memory, and presents it to the intellect. A man who does not know the 
named gets its knowledge through the name. The name and the named are 
related to each other as outside to inside (zahir to batin) but in fact both 
are identical. There are some names the named of which do not exist in actual 
reality, as, for instance, 'anqd' which exists only in name. 'Anqd' and Allah 
stand at opposite poles; while the object of 'anqd' is Non-Being, the object of 
Allah is Absolute Being. We can reach knowledge of God through divine 
names and attributes or through the name Allah which comprises in itself 
all names and attributes. Names are of two kinds: (1) of the essence, e.g., 
one (ahad), single (wdkid), unique (fard), etc., (2) of the attributes, e.g., 
knowledge, power, mercy, etc. 23 

An attribute of a thing is that which leads one to the knowledge of its 
state. This distinction between attributes and essence is operative only in 
the sphere of the phenomenal world. "Everything in the phenomenal world 
which is qualified by an attribute demands that the attribute should be 
other than the thing, because it is subject to division and multiplicity. At the 
same time it demands that the attribute should be identical with it. We say 
that man is a rational animal. It means that animality is a separate entity 
and so is rationality a thing different from man. But it also means that rational- 
ity and animality are both identical with man, because he is composed of 
both and is nothing beyond them. With regard to division, the attributes of 
a creature are different from its essence, while with regard to arrangement 
(tarkib) they are identical with it. But in God, this otherness disappears, 
for division and multiplicity do not apply to Him. His attributes are His 
essence and the two are identical." 24 

Thus, according to al-Jili, the material world is not an unreality, a maya, 
but a reality which expresses the outward form of the Real. Plurality and 
division in the external world are the manifestations of the divine essence as 
attributes which are in the last analysis identical with it. If we do not accept this 
view -of identity, the universe would not, according to him, lead to the essence. 

In the fifty-seventh chapter of Insan-i Kdmil, al-Jili says explicitly that 
thought or idea is the material of the universe. "Thought is the life of the 
spirit of the universe. . . . Existence is nothing but a thought. Thought is the 
origin and the source of Being fwujud) and is the essence in which God is 
completely manifested. Don't you see your belief about God as having names 
and attributes which pertain to Him? Where is the locus of the belief (i.e., 
the universe) in which God has manifested Himself for you ? It is nothing 
but thought." 25 Later on, he asserts that Being (wujud), as a matter of fact, 
is nothing but "a thought within a thought within a thought." 26 Thus, by 

23 Ibid., pp. 33 ff. 
21 Ibid., pp. 120-21. 

25 Ibid., pp. 214-15. 

26 Ibid., pp. 216-17. 

Mahmud Shabistari, al-JIli, and Jami 

identifying attributes and essence, he is able to give reality to the physical 
world of nature which to the mystic becomes a source of the direct knowledge 
of God. 

Among the important divine attributes he mentions divinity (ildhlyyak), 
mercifulness (rahmaniyyak), and lordship (rububiyyah). Divinity is the sum 
of all the realities (i.e., all individualities) of Being and their maintenance in 
their respective positions (maratib) within the whole. It is the rank of God as 
Necessary Being. "You should know that Being and Non-Being are two 
opposites, and the sphere of divinity comprises both. It is a sum of two pairs of 
contradictories: eternal and created (Jfodith), God and the world, Being and 
Non-Being. At this stage God appears in the form of the world and the world 
in the form of God." 27 Divinity is the highest manifestation of the essence and 
is invisible, while its effects in the form of nature are visible everywhere. 
Essence is visible to the eye but its locus is not fixed or visible; we see it 
manifested but cannot describe its quality. Take the example of man. He is 
characterized by some attributes, all of which never come within the compass 
of our comprehension, though we see man all right. It means that essence is 
visible while its attributes are not. Of the latter we see nothing but effects. For 
instance, we see the marching forward on the part of a brave man. Similarly, 
we see giving of alms to the poor on the part of a generous man. "Marching 
forward" and "giving of alms" are not bravery and generosity respectively, 
but only the effects of these attributes. 28 

Mercifulness (rafymdniyyah) is the manifestation of the essence in the 
realities of names and attributes. It refers only to the creative and not to the 
creaturely attributes, while ilahiyyah refers to both. In this respect mercifulness 
appears to be higher in scale than divinity, as sweetness of sugar does with 
regard to the sugarcane. If you prefer sweetness to sugarcane, mercifulness is 
better than divinity, but if looking at the generality and comprehensive charac- 
ter of the sugarcane, you prefer it to sweetness, then divinity will be prior in 
rank. The name that manifests itself in this rank is that of Rahman (the Merciful) 
which includes both the attributes of the essence as oneness (dhadlyyah), 
uniqueness (wahdiyyah), eternity (samadlyyah), etc., and attributes of His Self 
which are seven, viz., life, knowledge, power, will, speech, hearing, and sight. 29 

The first mercy of God was the creation of the universe from His own 
Self. 30 His manifestation permeated all existents and His perfection appeared 
in every atom and particle. In spite of manifestation in the many, He does 
not become many but remains One as His nature demands. The nature of 
His permeation is that He created the world out of His Self which is not 

" Ibid., pp. 4S-49. 
28 Ibid., pp. 47-52. 
M Ibid., p. 58. 

30 He refers to the Qur'anic verse (xlv, 13) in which the words jaml 1 'an minhu 
are interpreted by him to mean as "all (created) from His own self." 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

God is the substance (hayvla) of the universe. 31 In order to clarify his 
position, al-Jili gives the example of water and ice. God is like water which 
is the reality of ice and the world is like ice which is nothing but water {i.e., 
God) in a congealed form. The use of the term "ice" is only metaphorical 
and secondary, and not real. For the world and God are identical. "The world 
is nothing but ice, and ice, according to our opinion, is nothing but water. 
Our belief is that ice and water are identical," 32 

God permeates the whole of existence through His name Rahman and this 
permeation is neither incarnation (huliU) nor contact, for both these con- 
ceptions imply duality; as a matter of fact, He is consnbstantial with 
existents fain al-maujudai). 

Lordship (rvbvhtyyah) is the name of the rank which demands those names 
that require the being of the existents and comprehends such names as the 
knower ('alim), the hearer (sami'), the seer (basir), the self-subsisting 
(qayyum), and the willing (murld). Each name under this category demands 
its logical correlate. The knower implies the object known and willing implies 
the objects towards which the will is directed. 33 

There are four kinds of attributes: beauty (jamal), perfection (kamdl), 
majesty (jaldl), and essence (dhdt). 

Every divine name and attribute has its effect which reflects one of the 
three: beauty, majesty, or perfection. All existents absolutely reflect all 
the names and attributes of beauty and some of the names and attributes of 
majesty as well as those of perfection. Paradise is the manifestation of 
absolute beauty, while hell is the manifestation of absolute majesty. The 
perfect man alone is the complete manifestation of all these divine names and 

Al- Jlli then deals with the ten main attributes : life, knowledge, will, power, 
speech, hearing, sight, beauty, majesty, perfection, even though they are so 
innumerable that none can comprehend them in their entirety. 34 

1 . Life. — Complete life is the existence of a thing for itself, while incomplete 
or relative life is its existence for another. God exists for Himself, is living 
(hayy) and, therefore, His life is complete and not subject to death. All creatures 
live for God and, therefore, their life is relative and hence subject to decay 
and death. Life of God as manifested in created beings (khalq) is one and 
complete and yet the creatures receive it in different degrees. In some, this 
life appears in its complete form as, for instance, in the perfect man and the 
exalted angels and those things which are not composed of material elements, 
as the Exalted Pen, the Preserved Tablet, etc. In others, this life appears in 

31 He refers to the Qur'anic verse (xlvi, 3) for the phrase bi cd-Haqq which is 
interpreted by him to mean that everything was created out of Haqq, i.e., Haqq 
served as matter for the world. 

32 Al-Insan al-Kamil, p. 60. 

33 Ibid., p. 61. 

34 Ibid., p. 116. 


Mahmud Shabistari, al-Jili, and Jami 

its real form but is incomplete, as, for instance, in animal, man, lower angel, 
and jinn, because though each of them lives for his own self and knows that 
he exists and possesses different attributes, yet his existence is not real, for 
he is far removed from the source of life. In others, as in animals, life does not 
appear in its real form. There are others for whom life has lost its real signifi- 
cance and, therefore, they live for others and not for themselves as, for in- 
stance, plants, minerals, etc. 

Everything existent is alive, for existence by itself implies life, though 
different things manifest it in various degrees ; some enjoy complete life while 
others have imperfect life. But if we look at the matter from the transcendental 
point of view, life of everything is complete, though there seems to be a quanti- 
tative difference due to the inherent capacity of the thing itself. Life as such 
is a fountain, a unity, a substance, existent in everything by its own per- 
fection and is not subject to diminution or division. 

The essence of a thing is its life, that is, life of God, whereby everything 
subsists. The life of things with regard to themselves is created (hddith) hut 
in relation to God it is eternal (qadim), for the life of a thing is in reality 
His life. "You should know that forms, shapes, actions, words, minerals, and 
plants to which we attribute 'existence' possess like man complete life by 
themselves and for themselves. But because most people do not know 
this fact, we include them in a category lower than that in which they should 
be placed. As a matter of fact, everything possesses being for itself and com- 
plete life with which it speaks, hears, sees, understands, and has power and 
will of its own and does what it wishes to do. This fact has been learnt by 
me from direct revelation in mystic experience." 36 In other words, everything, 
material as well as non-material, is, according to al-Jili, self-determined, and 
possesses a unique individuahty of its own. 

2. Kncnvledge. — Of all the attributes, knowledge is nearer to life as life is 
nearer to essence. Every living thing (or everything, for, according to him, 
everything has life) possesses knowledge in one form or another. The first 
form of knowledge is instinctive or what he calls inspirational ('ilm-i ilhdmi), 
possessed even by animals. The other is clear, necessary, or inferential know- 
ledge possessed by man, angels, and jinn. Life and knowledge are correlated 
and each demands the other. 

Al-Jili holds that knowledge by which God knows Himself and knowledge 
by which He knows the objects of the universe are one and the same and 
there can be no division or difference in the two. According to ibn 'Arabi, 
God's knowledge of the objects is dependent on what they (objects) give of 
themselves to Him. Commenting on the Qur'anic verse (iii, 178): "Verily 
God is not unjust to His servants," ibn 'Arabi says, "No, I dealt with them 
only according as I knew them, and I knew them only by what they 'gave' 

> Ibid., 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

me of themselves of what they themselves really are." 36 Similarly, discussing 
the problem of creation, ibn 'Arabi says that when God says "Be" to a thing, 
it is not God's will that brings a thing into existence because God wills nothing 
and commands nothing the existence of which is not made necessary by the 
very nature and laws of things themselves. 37 Thus, according to him, God's 
will and knowledge are both dependent on the nature of the objects. Al-Jili 
rejects this view as wrong. God's knowledge of objects, according to him, is 
totally independent of the objects themselves. It is true, he says, that God's 
decree (fiukm) with regard to a thing is determined by what its essence 
demands it to be, but it is wrong to infer from this that God's knowledge of 
objects is thereby determined by the nature of the objects themselves. As a 
matter of fact, the objects demanded of Him that very thing which He knew 
by His universal, essential, and fundamental knowledge before they were 
brought into existence. God's knowledge of objects is determined not by the 
necessity or demand of those objects but by its own inner demand. 38 

3. Will. — God's knowledge manifests itself according to the demands of 
His essence and it is will which gives existence to His objects of know- 
ledge as His knowledge demands. Our created will is identical with God's 
will, but when attributed to us it becomes temporal, while attributed to 
God it is eternal, just as Being when attributed to us is created (makhluq) 
and when attributed to God is eternal. 

Here again he disagrees with ibn 'Arabi, according to whom God is nothing 
but the name of immutable laws which operate in the universe. "Ibn 'Arabi 
rules out not only the individual freedom of man, but that of God's will as 
well. God does not will in the sense that He chooses, but in the sense that 
He decrees what He knows will take place. That the thing or action which God 
has decreed should take place, depends entirely on its own necessary laws." 39 
But, according to al-Jili, just as God is free and undetermined in His know- 
ledge, so His will is absolutely undetermined and uncaused. God's will operates 
in every form and shape without any cause or condition; it is absolutely 
God's free act. He says that, according to ibn 'Arabi, it is wrong to call God 
free (mukhtdr), for He does not operate in the universe by His free-will; His 
actions are determined by the necessity and nature of the objects. But, 
according to al-Jili himself, God operates in the universe through His free-will 
and is not determined by any necessity external to Him. 40 

4. Power. — It is an attribute of the essence which brings objects of know- 
ledge into the world of actuality. Power is the creation or bringing into 
existence of objects from the state of Non-Being. 

36 Fusils al-Hikam (Urdu translation, Lueknow, 1927), p. 172. See Affifi, The 
Mystical Philosophy of Muhyld Din-Ibnul 'Arabi, Cambridge, 1939, p. 152. 
" Fusus, pp. 155, 272; Affifi, op. cit., p. 31. 

38 Al-Insan al-Kamil, pp. 96-100. 

39 Affifi, op. cit., p. 156. 

40 Al-Insan al-Kamil, pp. 101-04. 


Mahmud Shabistari, al-Jili, and Jami 

Here, again, he controverts the position of ibn 'Arabi according to whom 
there is no creation at all. The objects of the physical world existed from 
eternity as objects of God's knowledge. What we usually call creation is 
nothing but manifestation of these already existing objects of knowledge on 
a different plane. There is no question of temporal priority or posteriority nor 
is there any creation ex nihilo at all. 41 Al-Jili does not accept this position in 

He says that it is true that creation means the coming into actual existence 
of things which were previously the objects of God's consciousness. But ibn 
'Arabi 5 according to him, forgot to note the fact that God's existence was 
prior to the existence of latent realities, things as objects of His consciousness 
(a'ydn aJ-thabitah), and at this stage the things were non-existent and there 
was in existence nothing but Allah to whom alone we can attribute eternity 
(qidam). It follows that He created the objects of His consciousness from 
non-existence ('adam). 

Allah in essence is independent and His being is first only as a matter of 
rank (rutbah) ; creatures are dependent on Him and, therefore, their being 
is posterior in the same sense. The creatures are non-being with reference to 
the First Being. There is no lapse of time between the non-existence of 
things and their becoming objects of God's consciousness. 42 The question of 
priority is only logical and not temporal. 

The same line of argument is presented in discussing the nature of eternity 
(azal) and everlastingness (abad). Eternity is of two kinds. One is the eternity 
of a created thing. It refers to the time when it had no being. Eternity of 
one creature is different from the eternity of others. For instance, eternity 
of inorganic matter is different from that of organic substances, for it is 
prior to the latter. We can, therefore, speak of eternity with reference to the 
organic substances when the inorganic substances were in existence and had 
not yet developed and evolved into organic form ; it does not, however, imply 
any temporal priority. The other is absolute eternity which belongs only to 
God who is above Being and Non-Being. God's eternity has no relation what- 
soever with that of the creatures because He is (logically) prior to them. We 
cannot say, as ibn 'Arabi, for instance, holds, that in the state of absolute 
eternity the world existed, if not objectively, as the object of God's 
knowledge, for if we accept this position, we would be bound to regard the 
created world as co-eternal and co-existent with God. He quotes a Qur'anic 
verse (lxxvi, 1) in support of his thesis: "Has there not been over man a long 
period of time when he was nothing — to be spoken of?" Al-Jili holds that 
time fdahr) in this context means Allah and a portion of time (hln) is one 
of His manifestations when man had no being, either as an intelligible 
('ilmi, i.e. an object of God's consciousness in the form of latent reality) or 

41 Ibid., p. 105. 

41 Ibid., pp. 105-06. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

an actual reality ('aini). The part of the verse "nothing— to be spoken of" 
signifies that he did not form the content of God's mind. 43 

Similarly, when we apply everlastingness to God, it is logical and not 
temporal. "Eternity and everlastingness are only logical determinations and 
not temporal events in reference to God." "These two, i.e., eternity and 
everlastingness with their temporal implications, have been employed only 
to clarify the real existence of God (in relation to the world), otherwise (as 
a matter of fact) there is neither temporal eternity nor everlastingness. Time 
has no reference or significance in relation to God." 44 

Difference between eternity and everlastingness is that eternity refers to 
the logical priority of God, while everlastingness means that He was never 
non-existent nor in need of an efficient causality for His Being. We apply 
to TTim the term "everlastingness" only for understanding His eternity, other- 
wise ascription of temporal priority and posteriority to Him as related to the 
world is out of question. Temporality (huduth) implies that things, although 
they have been in the knowledge of God since eternity, in respect of their 
existence are created things. 45 

5. Speech (Kalam). — Speech is a reflection of the Being of God; it is an 
overflowing or emanation (faid) from the essence of God. It is an intelligible 
epiphany. It manifests itself in two directions. The first is of two kinds. 
(a) The first kind of speech (kalam) issues forth from God's position of power 
f'izzah) which must be obeyed by all. The Qur'anic verse, xli, 11, refers to 
this fact. 45 " (b) The second kind of speech issues forth from the position of 
Lordship in the language of the people such as the revealed books. In this 
case, the question of obedience and disobedience arises. Some obey while 
others disobey the injunctions contained in them. 

The second significance (direction) of speech is metaphysical and is the 
basis of the doctrine of Logos. The Word of God is the reality of the existents 
and every existent is a Word of God. Al-Jili refers to the Qur'anic verse: "If 
the sea were ink for the Words of my Lord, the sea would surely be consumed 
before the Words of my Lord are exhausted" (xviii, 109). Thus, Nature is the 
materialization of the Word of God and exists in its physical form. It is the 
objective and material form of the contents of God's consciousness, the physical 
shape that the objects of His knowledge, called a'ydn al-thabitah, assume. 46 

43 Ibid., pp. 127-33. 

« Ibid., pp. 129-30. 

4S In a certain sense, he argues, a'ydn al-thabitah can be called eternal. God is 
eternal and His knowledge must also be eternal. As objects of God's knowledge, 
a'yan al-thabitah must of necessity be eternal. And yet, he adds, in their essence, 
they are hadith. Because huduth is an actual existential fact (amr al-'aini) and 
qidam only a logical determination (amr al-hukmi), al-Jili prefers to call a'yan 
hadith rather than qadim. Al-Insan al-Kamil, p. 132. 

45a The verse is as follows: "He said to (the heavens) and to the earth: 'Come 
both, willingly or unwillingly.' They both said: 'We come willingly.' " 

4 * Al-Insan al-Kamil, pp. 107-09. 


Mahmud ghabistari, al-Jili, and J ami 

6. Hearing is divine epiphany. — It is an attribute of His essence which His 
perfection demands. He hears the words of His own consciousness as well 
as those of His manifestations (shu'un). The second hearing (of the mani- 
festations) is the demand of His names and attributes which are to be mani- 
fested in the physical world. It is revelation of Himself to Himself in the state 
of self-consciousness. 47 

7. Sight. — The attribute of sight with reference to seeing the object of 
knowledge is nothing but God as He is in His essence, and the same is the 
case with His attribute of knowledge. With regard to the epiphany of know- 
ledge which is the originator of the universe, it is the revelation of the attribute 
of knowledge from Himself to Himself, while the epiphany of 'ain, which is 
the objective physical world, is the manifestation of the attribute of seeing, 
and both are identical with His essence. Seeing and knowing are two different 
attributes and yet, with reference to His essence, they are one: His seeing 
is His knowing. When the things were on the plane of the unseen, they were 
the objects of His knowledge ; when they appeared on the plane of existence, 
they became the objects of His hearing. 48 

8. Beauty.— It is of two kinds. The first is real and is reflected in the 
"beautiful names" in which God sees Himself. The second is sensory and 
reflected in the physical created world. He is the absolute beauty, and reveals 
Himself in its different manifestations. 

9. Majesty is beauty in its intense form. — Beauty signifies His exalted attri- 
butes, while majesty is His essence as manifested in His names and attributes. 

10. Perfection is the name of divine essence which is perfectly unknowable. — 
All attributes of God are identical with His essence and not added to it and 
so perfection is His by His very nature. 49 

Self -revelations of the One. B0 — The Ultimate Reality, according to al-Jili, 
is One which manifests itself in the multiplicity of forms without thereby 
becoming many. The state of the One before It revealed Itself is called, after 
ibn 'Arabi, blindness (al-'Ama'). The term was adopted from a prophetic 
tradition. The Holy Prophet was once asked about the place of God before 
creation. He answered that God was in 'Amd'. On the basis of this simple 
answer, ibn 'Arabi and al-Jili have built a superstructure of their pantheistic 

The essence is Absolute Being in which all relations, modes, and directions 
disappear. As such it cannot be called a necessary or eternal being for this 
implies determination of one sort or another. It is even above the charac- 
terization of absoluteness. 51 Al-Jili calls this essence 'Ama' and describes it 
as essence in its inwardness. It is like a flint which hides fire in its innermost 

47 Ibid., pp. 109-11. 

48 Ibid., pp. 111-12. 

49 Ibid., pp. 116-20. 

50 Ibid. t p. 92. 

51 Ibid. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

recesses. Though sometimes fire is revealed, yet it remains hidden within it. 
It is the Reality of realities which is above the distinction of God (Haqq) and 
the world (khalq), beyond the determinations of names and attributes. 62 

It is the one epiphany which has no relation whatsoever with the "other." 
In spite of this, it comprises within itself all (later) manifestations or revelations 
which are present in it only potentially like stars in the light of the sun. In 
this epiphany of essence, God knows nothing but Himself, while in other 
epiphanies He knows Himself as well as others. 63 

This state of blindness is related to Absolute Oneness (ahadiyyah), in both 
of which names and attributes are annihilated and nothing is manifested, 
with the difference that in the former the inward aspect is emphasized, while 
in the latter its outward aspect takes its form. 'Ama', with regard to inward- 
ness and occultation or hiddenness, is the essence, while Absolute Oneness 
with regard to God's manifestation to Himself is His mind (nafs) in which 
all relations are negated. 64 

Absolute Oneness denotes that the Pure Being is about to start on the 
process of descent, conning down towards manifestation. 56 This is the first 
stage of the descent or self-revelation of the essence from the darkness of 
'Amd,- to the light of manifestations. At this stage unity is complete and all 
multiplicity is negated, although it resides in it ; it is divested of all attributes, 
names, relations, and modes, and yet they all lie hidden in its innermost 
being. Its apparent unity is identical with its hidden plurality. It is like a wall 
when seen from a distance. Although it is composed of different constituents 
like bricks, mortar, etc., and is, thus, a plurality, yet it shows itself to an 
observer as a unity which has a peculiar existence of its own and is not merely 
a conglomeration of different parts. It is the first self-revelation of the One 
and is above the distinctions of God andthe world. No one can claim to receive 
illumination from the One at this stage, for it is beyond all multiplicity; what 
we experience is really unity in its second stage, Rabb or Allah. 66 

The unity (ahadiyyah) of God at a particular stage of manifestation spreads 
out into a pair of opposites which later on are reunited at the stage of unique- 
ness or simple oneness (wahdiyyah). The intervening stage between ahadiyyah 
and wahdiyyah is represented by He-ness (huwiyyah) and I-ness (anlyyah). 57 

Ibn 'Arabi employs the term huwlyyah (He-ness) as equivalent to divine 
essence. 68 But for al-Jili this He-ness is a stage removed from the essence. It is 
derived from the pronoun huiva (he) which refers to the "absent one" (gha'ib) 

52 Ibid., p. 64. 

53 Ibid., pp. 65-66. 

54 Ibid., pp. 64-66. 

55 Ibid., p. 92. 

56 Ibid., pp. 54-55. 

57 Ibid., p. 92. 

58 See Affifi, op. cit., p. 24, footnote 1. Also p. 114 where He-ness is identified 
with 'Amd\ 


Mahmud Shabistari, al-Jili, and J ami 

and, therefore, refers to the essence of God from which names and attributes 
are absent, that is, to His unity which negates the many. It is the inward 
aspect of the unity which informs us about its inwardness (batin) and absence 
(gh&ibubiyyah). It is the inmost consciousness of Allah. 69 

Aniyyah (I-ness) is the outward aspect of unity in which One blossoms 
forth into multiplicity. Zahir (outward) and batin (inward) are not two different 
aspects of the One but only Its different views; as a matter of fact, the 
outward and the inward are identical. He-ness and I-ness, outwardness and 
inwardness refer to the reality which is signified by the name Allah because 
ilahiyyah is a sum of contradictories.' 

The stage of self-revelation called simple Oneness (wahdiyyah) is the 
manifestation of the essence in which all different attributes are gathered 
together. Here everything is One and many, many is One and One many. 

At this stage, essence is manifested as attribute and attribute as essence. 
Every attribute is identical with the other, as generosity is with revengeful- 
ness, for both are identical with (or 'ain of) Allah. In ahadiyyah, there is no 
manifestation of names and attributes and the Real is the pure essence. In 
wahdiyyah, names and attributes as well as their traces and effects are fully 
manifested, but they are not separate from the essence ; here every attribute 
is identical with (the 'ain of) the other. In ilahiyyah names and attributes are 
manifested but are distinguished one from the other and are even contra- 
dictory to one another. 61 

Ascent of the soul. — The different grades of the self -revelations of the One 
are only a logical description of how, according to al-Jili, the Real, i.e., God, 
manifests Himself in nature and man. It is man in whom He becomes self- 
conscious and who realizes the ultimate truth that there is no multiplicity 
or division, for reality is one. But, as al-Jili says, this realization does not 
dawn on him all of a sudden. It is not possible for man to realize and 
comprehend all the divine realities at the time of birth. He ascends to the 
truth only by gradual stages. 62 Al-Jili enumerates four different stages which 
man has to traverse before he is able to achieve unity with the source and 
origin of life, the One. 

1. Illumination of action. — At this stage man feels that God permeates all 
objects of the world; it is He who moves them and is ultimately responsible 
for their rest. The power of performing action is attributed by al-Jili to God 
only and man is looked upon as devoid of all power or will. He enumerates 
several degrees and grades of this stage. There are some who first see the divine 
will and then look to the action and, thus, they are made to realize the conflict 
between God's will and religious injunctions. There are some who follow His 
will, although thereby they violate His order (amr). With regard to the first, 

5 » Al-Insan al-Kamil, p. 122. 
40 Ibid., p. 124. 

61 Ibid., pp. 56-57. 

62 Ibid., p. 140. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

i.e., will, they are obedient, while, with regard to the second, they are classed 
among the disobedients. Al-Jili leaves the problem unsettled by asking the 
question: "Is it better for man, in order to win God's favour, to put on the 
dress of disobedience for the sake of fulfilling God's will or to put on the dress 
of obedience and defy thereby His will, though, as a matter of fact, only that 
happens which is according to the will of God ?" 68 

2. Illumination of names.— When a mystic receives illumination from 
any one of the divine names, his being is completely submerged under the 
light of the name. Both are so much identified that when anyone calls God 
by that name the response comes from the mystic. The result is that he comes 
to realize his unity with the Real. "Anyone who calls Laila (my beloved) 
by her name receives answer from me; when anyone calls me, then Laila 
answers on my behalf. We are one soul though in two different bodies or we 
two are like a person who in essence is one but has two names. As a matter 
of fact, we are not two persons that have become one, but are one ; the lover 
is the beloved." 

Al-Jili enumerates several grades and degrees of this illumination, all of 
which are based on his mystical experiences. Other people may arrive at a 
different set of stages on the basis of their mystical experience. The first is 
the illumination of the name Eternal (Qadlm). Here God reveals to man his 
position as he existed before the creation of the world in the consciousness 
of God (i.e., as 'am al-ihabitah). His physical existence vanishes. 

As the knowledge of God is eternal, so are the objects of His knowledge. 
This being so, the man who receives illumination from the name Eternal ipso 
facto loses his temporality and becomes as eternal as his latent reality f'«m 
al-thabitah). He who receives the epiphany of the name al-Ffaqq (the Truth) 
realizes the hidden truth contained in the Qur'anic verse (xv, 85) : "We created 
the heavens, the earth, and whatever is in them with truth." For him the 
phenomenal world ceases to exist and only the essence, devoid of all attributes 
and relations, remains. There are others who receive epiphany of the name 
al-Ahad (the One). God reveals to them the true nature of the phenomenal 
world and they realize in their mystic revelation that this world is a reflection 
(buruz) of His essence and is related to Him as waves to the sea. In this 
state the mystic sees the One in the many; rather the many disappear altogether 
and only the One remains as the Real. 

Al-Jili sums up his position in these words: "I lost my (separate) being 
(ivujud). On my behalf He represented me; rather He was I and I, He. Being 
was one and there was no conflict or difference. I was annihilated and achieved 
abiding life (baqa') with Him and in Him, and all the veils of difference and 
dualities were removed. I raised my self (nafs), the veil was lifted and I 
awoke as if I had not fallen asleep. With the eyes of reality I found myself 
as Haqq. Then His attributes became my attributes and my self (dkat) His 

1 Ibid., pp. 71-74. 

Mahmud Shabistari, al-Jili, and Jami 

essence. As a matter of fact, my name is His name and the name of His 
essence is my name." 

There are some who receive light (tajalli) from the name al-RaTymdn (the 
Merciful). At this stage, the mystic receives illumination gradually and turn 
by turn from all the divine names and is illumined according to the capacity of 
the light inherent in his nature. Then the name Rabb (Nourisher) and all 
other names that are related to it like 'Allm (Knower), Qadir (Powerful), etc., 
descend on him. This process goes on till he is illumined by all the names. 
Last of all comes the epiphany of the name Qayyum (Self -subsisting). This 
is the final stage after which the mystic passes on to the next higher stage 
of the illumination of divine attributes. 64 

3. Illumination of attributes. — At this stage, the self (nafs) and existence 
(ivujud) of the mystic are annihilated. When the light of slavehood ('abdiyyah) 
and the spirit of creatureliness in him pass away, God substitutes in his 
body, in place of the thing that has been snatched away, a spiritual substance 
of His own essence without incarnation. This spiritual substance, called the 
Holy Spirit (Rith al-Quds), becomes an inalienable part of his self. God's 
epiphany to man in this state means His epiphany to His own Self; we call 
man slave, though, in reality, there is no distinction between Lord and slave. 
When slave disappears, his logical correlate, Lord, must also disappear. The 
true reality is God, the One. As al-Jili puts it, "In this sea of unity, the 
creatures are like waves whieh, though many, are parts of the sea. If the 
sea is in motion, it is all waves; when it is calm, there are neither waves nor 
number (i.e., multiplicity)." 

He enumerates several grades of this iUumination which different people 
attain according to their inborn capacities and the magnitude of their know- 
ledge or the power of their will. When a person is illumined by the divine 
attribute of life, he feels that he is the sole source of life as manifested in all 
the creatures in different proportions. Al-Jili says that when he was at this 
stage he felt that he was life itself, one and indivisible. 

When a mystic is illumined by the attribute of knowledge or sight, he 
knows the reality of everything that was, is, and will be and sees everything, 
even the unknown of the unknown (ghaib al-gkbib). When he is illumined by 
the attribute of hearing, he hears the speech of every creature: minerals, 
plants, animals, and angels. 

Some receive the light of the attribute of speech (kalam). In this condition, 
the recipient looks upon all existents as God's Word. Sometimes he hears the 
Words of God without any veil of names, without any direction, without the 
help of any bodily organ. This hearing of God's words cannot be described in 
usual physical terms, for the ear does not play any part in it. In this state man 
attains a very high position. He is addressed by God as His lover and beloved. 
"You are My mouth among My people. You are My inmost secret and the 

" Ibid., pp. 75-78. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

best reflection of My life. You are My name, My person (dhat), My attribute. 
You are the epitome and the (final) object of existence and creation (huduth). 
If there had been no Lord (Rabb), there would have been no slave. You 
manifested Me as I manifested you. You brought Me into existence, as I 
created you. If you had not been existent, I would not have been existent. 
My lover, I am the (hidden) meaning of you and you are the (apparent) mani- 
festation of Me." 

A man who reaches this stage receives God's Word according to his capacity. 
When carried to the Highest Tree (sidrat al-muntaha) he is addressed by 
God. Then he sees light in the heart and is convinced by its very brilliance 
that its source is God. He is told: "My friend, your I-ness (anly yah) is My 
He-ness (hwmyyah). 'You' is identical with 'I.' Your simplicity is My com- 
positeness and your compositeness is My simplicity. You are a point (centre) 
round which the circle of existence revolves, and in that circle you are the 
worshipper as well as the worshipped; you are the light, the manifestation, 
the beauty." 

Some are illumined by the divine attribute of will. At this stage the illumined 
person sees that everything in the world is subject to his will. Some are 
illumined by the attribute of power. At this stage, which al-Jili claims to 
have reached himself, he heard the ringing of bells; bis whole physical body 
seemed to have been torn asunder and his existence changed into non-being. 
He experienced here darkness upon darkness till by the grace of God he was 
relieved of all this and came upon light. At this stage the illumined one gets 
extraordinary spiritual powers ; a thing comes into existence at his bidding. 
The last stage is the illumination of the attribute of divinity (ilahlyyah), 
where two contradictory positions seem to be reconciled and incorporated into 
a higher synthesis. A person illumined by this light accepts all the religions 
of the world as true and yet he looks upon all of them (including Islam) as 
untrue ; for, according to him, all Muslims, believers, gnostics, and the righteous 
ones are on the wrong path and he does not accept the opinion of any but 
the perfect Sufi (muhaqqiq) as true. 65 

4. Illumination of the essence. — When God reveals Himself to man through 
this epiphany, man dies to himself and, in place of that, receives from 
God a divine substance (hztlfah ilahlyyah) which is either attributive (sifati) 
or essential (dhdti) . When this substance is essential, i. e., when man is illumined 
by divine essence, he truly becomes a perfect man.* 6 

Doctrine of Logos and the Perfect ifcm— According to al-Jili, there are three 
metaphysical categories: (1) Absolute Being which is completely unknowable. 
It is the essence above all kinds of determinations, relations, and modes. 67 
(2) The reality viewed as Haqq, the aspect of He-ness or Divinity. (3) The 
reality viewed as khalq, the aspect of I-ness, or humanity. Ultimate Reality 

65 Ibid., pp. 7&-90. 
•« Ibid., p. 93. 
•» Ibid., p. 92. 

Mahmiid g^abistari, al-Jili, and Jami 

is One, but it appears in two different aspects of God and man (gaqq and 
kkalq).* 9 Sometimes he expresses this doctrine in a form which most Western 
writers (like Nicholson) construe to be the acceptance of the Christian doctrine 
of Trinity. Al-Jili says, "Essence has two aspects: 'You' and T . . . 'You' 
refers to your He-ness (humyyah) ; T refers to my reality . . . 'I,' as T-ness, 
is God and 'You' in its creaturely aspect is man. You may look at your self 
as 'I' or as 'You'; in reality, there is nothing here except the Universal 
Reality." 69 

Later on, al-Jili says, "In itself the essence is one. If you say it is one, it 
is true. And if you say, it is two, then it is, as a matter of fact, two. If you 
say, 'No, it is three,' you have spoken the truth." Explaining it further, he 
says: "Look at His oneness (ahadiyyah) which is His essence and here He is 
one (wahid) and unique. If you look at Him with regard to the two aspects 
of Creator and creature, Lord and slave (Rabb and 'abd), He is two. And if 
you look at His real nature and at that wherein two contraries are gathered 
together, you will be amazed. You will not be able to call His loftiness lowly 
and His lowliness lofty. You will have to fix a third name to illustrate His 
nature which is characterized by the two attributes. This third thing is that 
whose name is Ahmad with reference to the celestial sphere and Muhammad 
with reference to the terrestrial sphere." 70 This is the doctrine of Logos or the 
perfect man which he discusses in detail in the sixtieth chapter of his book. 

The perfect man, according to him, is the Pole (Qutb) on which the sphere of 
existence revolves from first to last. He has been one and unchangeable since 
being came into existence. He is dressed in different ways and in each guise 
he has a different name. His real name is Muhammad. In every age he has a 
name which is most suitable for that time. Referring to his personal experience 
he says that he had a chance of seeing him (i.e. Muhammad as a perfect man) 
in the form of his Shaikh, Sharf al-Din al-Jabrati, at Zabid in 796/1393, though 
he did not know at that time that he was Muhammad. The Holy Prophet, 
as a matter of fact, in his capacity as the perfect man, has the power of assuming 
different forms. When the mystic observes him in the form which he possessed 
in his earthly life, he calls it the form of Muhammad. But when he (the mystic) 
sees him in some other form, though he knows that it is in reality Muhammad, 
he calls him by the name of the form in which he appears. The name Muhammad 
applies to nothing except the reality of Muhammad (haqiqat al-Muhammadiy- 
yah). Al-Jili is, however, very careful to point out that this is not the doctrine 
of metempsychosis. Muhammad has the power, according to him, to manifest 
himself in different forms and he has been appearing in the form of the per- 
fect man in every age. Such perfect men are outwardly his (i.e., Muhammad's) 
vicegerents, while inwardly he constitutes their essence. 701 At another place, 

68 Ibid., p. 4. 

69 Ibid., p. 8. 

70 Ibid., p. 17. 

70 « Ibid., pp. 260-61. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

al-Jili calls Muhammad as "the heaven and the earth and the length and the 
breadth." 71 

This basic reality of Muhammad is present in all people in proportion to their 
inherent capacities. Saints and prophets all partake of it in different degrees, 
while Muhammad alone possesses it in its fullness and, therefore, according to 
al-Jili, nobody except he can be called a truly perfect man. 72 Different names 
and attributes are manifested individually and separately in different saints 
and prophets; but in the perfect man they are manifested in their totality. 

The perfect man is the whole of reality in miniature; he is the microcosm 
who combines in himself the inward and the outward aspects of reality. He 
is the copy of God as a tradition of the Prophet says : "Allah created Adam 
in the image of the Merciful," and, as another tradition asserts: "God created 
Adam in His own image." God is living, knowing, mighty, willing, hearing, 
seeing, and speaking and so is the perfect man. Then there is the perfect 
man's he-ness (hwmyyah) as against God's He-ness (huwiyyah), I-ness (aniy- 
yah) against I-ness, essence against essence, whole against whole, universal 
against universal, particular against particular. 73 The microcosmic character 
of the perfect man is further explained by al-Jili as follows: "The perfect 
man in his essence represents all the realities of existence. In his spirituality 
he corresponds to the spiritual realities and in his corporeality to the physical 
realities. His heart corresponds to the Throne of God (al-'arsh), u his aniyyah 
to the Heavenly Chair (kursi), 75 his mind to the Exalted Pen (al-qalam al- 
a'la) 76 his soul to the Guarded Tablet (al-lauh al-mahfuz), 11 bis nature to 

71 The terms "length" and "breadth" were first used by Hallaj for lahut (divinity) 
and Tvasut (humanity) and later employed by ibn 'Arabi and al-Jili to denote the 
two aspects Of the essence. 

12 Al-Insan, pp. 253-54. 

73 Ibid., p. 262. 

74 l Arsk, according to ibn 'Arabi and al-Jili, signifies universal body. "It is the 
theatre of majesty, the locus of tajalli and a characteristic of essence, and is known 
as the place of that essence — a place which is devoid of all (spatial) reference." 
Ibid., pp. 171-72. 

75 Kursi, the Footstool under the divine Throne, "signifies the tajalli of all 
(divine) attributes of action. The divine activity in manifesting the realities of 
the universe looks first of all to kursi. At this stage the effects of contradictory 
attributes are manifested in detail and the Word of God (divine amr) comes 
into existence." Ibid., p. 173. 

?« "The Exalted Pen means the first individualization of the creatures analy- 
tically. First, the khalq is individualized in the divine consciousness generally and 
without differentiation; at the stage of 'arsh, its being is synthetic and logical; 
at the (third) stage of kursi, khalq is manifested analytically. At the (fourth) stage 
of the Pen, its existence is differentiated. In the first three stages, this manifesta- 
tion (of khalq) was in the Unseen (i.e., in God), while in the fourth stage, its 
manifestation is made objective." Ibid., p. 174. See also p. 200: "The source of 
knowledge of the first intelligence and of the Exalted Pen is the same light. When 
it is referred to creatures, it is called the first intelligence, and when it is related 
to Haqq, its name is the Exalted Pen." 

77 Al-lavh al-mahfuz, according to al-Jili, stands for the universal soul. Ibid. , p. 176. 

Mahmud SJiabistari, al-Jili, and Jami 

physical elements, his potentialities to hayvla, etc., etc. In short, every faculty 
of the perfect man corresponds to different manifestations in the physical 
world." 78 

According to al-Jili, there are three stages (barzakh) of development for 
the perfect man. In the first stage called beginning (bada'ah) the perfect man 
becomes endowed with divine names and attributes. In the intermediary 
stage (tawassut) he is able to grasp both divine and human realities. When 
he is able to acquire all that is possible to do at this stage, he gets knowledge 
of all hidden things and becomes aware of the secrets of the unseen world. 
In the third and final stage (khttdm) he acquires creative power and is given 
full authority to manifest this power in the world of nature. "At this stage 
there are only two things: he, the perfect man himself, and God the Great." 79 
He is called "the guide" (al-mahdi) and the seal (al-khatam). He is the vice- 
gerent to whom God refers in the story of Adam. All things are drawn towards 
him in obeying his order as iron is attracted by the magnet. All the world is 
subdued to his power and greatness, and he does what he wishes to do. Nothing 
remains hidden from or unknown to him. The saint (i.e., the perfect man) 
possesses the divine substance as simple essence (like God Himself) and is 
not limited by any rank (martabah) of Creator and creature, 80 and as such he 
is able to bestow on things what their nature demands without any let or 
hindrance. 81 

Saintship and Prophethood. — Al-Jili quotes Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir on the 
authority of ibn 'Arabi, "Oh prophets! you have been called prophets but 
we have got something which you did not get." Another mystic says, "We 
have dived in the river (of saintship) while the prophets are staying at its 
banks." Al-Jili remarks that there is truth in these statements, but a prophet 
as prophet is superior to a saint qua saint. 82 

Al-Jili regards prophethood as a developed stage of saintship. The seventh 
stage of the spiritual development is nearness (qurb) which he calls great 
saintship (vnldyat al-kubra). It has four aspects. The first is friendship (khul- 
lah), the position attained by Abraham. The second is love (hubb), where 
Muhammad was given the rank of a lover of God (ftabtb Allah). The third is 

78 Ibid., pp. 261-62. 

7 » Ibid., pp. 263-64. Cf. ibn 'Arabi: "Only two beings rightly call themselves 
God: God Himself who in His books calls Himself Allah and the perfect man 
like Bayazid." See Affifi, op. cit., p. 78. 

80 There is a stage of reality where the distinctions of Haqq and khalq appear, 
but the perfect man is able to rise in his knowledge and experience above this 
stage and attain to the Absolute Essence. 

81 Al-Insan al-Kamil, p. 93. 

82 Ibid., p. 153. Al-Jili distinguishes between saintship and prophethood as 
follows: "When Adam was sent down to the earth, he was made a prophet, for 
prophethood means legislation (tashrV) and imposing obligation (taklif) which 
pertain to this earth. While in paradise Adam was a saint, for it is the place of 
miracles and observation and this is saintship." Ibid., p. 308. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

finality fkhatam), the rank of Muhammad (maqam-i Muhammadi) where the 
banner of Ahmad was hoisted for him. The last and fourth is the rank of 
slavehood ('abdiyyah) where God called him by the name of slave ('abd).* 3 
In this rank he was made a prophet and sent with a message to the people. 
Other people who succeed in attaining this rank are only entitled to be called 
slaves and they are the vicegerents of Muhammad on all planes (hadarah) 
of existence. There are some saints who have undergone spiritual discipline 
and attained perfection, but their objective is not the reform of the people. 
Such saints are prophets, but their prophethood follows from that of Muham- 
mad. They are his brothers about whom there is a reference in the following 
tradition: "I have a great regard for those of my brethren who will come 
after my death." These people are prophet-saints. The prophethood of these 
saints, according to al-Jfli, is not institutional (taskri'i) but that of nearness, 
propagation (of the message of the Holy Prophet), and enforcement of the 
divine Law. These prophet-saints receive their prophetic knowledge directly, 
i.e., from the same source from which the prophets derive their knowledge. 84 
Al-Jfli draws a distinction between saintship (wilayah), prophecy of saint- 
ship (nvbuwwat al-vrilayah), and prophecy of institution (nubuivwat al-tashri'). 
Saintship is a rank in which God reveals to a mystic His names and attri- 
butes through knowledge, state, and power and, thus, becomes his protector 
and friend (mutawaUi). In the prophecy of saintship, the perfect servant (al~ 
'aM al-kamil) is commanded by God to turn his attention to the people so 
that he may reform them in the light of the divine Law towards a better 
moral and spiritual life. He who performed this task before Muhammad was 
an apostle (rasul) and he who undertook this work after him is his vicegerent, 
but in his missionary work he has no independent status; he is the follower 
of Muhammad, like such saints as Bayazid, Junaid, 'Abd al-Qadir Jilani, ibn 
'Arabi, etc. He who enjoys an independent status and does not follow any 
other prophet belongs to the rank of prophecy of institution, but this has 
come to an end after the death of Muhammad. 

Thus saintship represents a peculiar relation between the Lord and the 
servant, prophecy of saintship is an aspect of the saint which is common 
between the Creator and the creature ; prophecy of institution is an independent 
and permanent assignment; apostleship is an aspect which refers to the relation 
between the (Lord's) servant and the creatures. 

A prophet is a saint as well as a prophet, but the aspect of his saintship 
is superior to the aspect of his prophecy, though every prophet-saint is superior 
to a saint. 86 According to al-Jfli, Muhammad is the final prophet because 
he did not leave any wisdom, guidance, knowledge, and secret unexplained. 
Whatever was necessary for the people to know and learn has been com- 

83 Reference is to the Qur'anic verse (xvii, 1), "Glory be to Him who carried 
His servant ('abdihi} by night from the Holy Mosque to the Remote Mosque." 

84 Al-Insan al-Kamil, pp. 31&-20. 
ss Ibid., pp. 320-21. 

Mahmud Shabistari, al-Jili, and Jami 

municated by him. No Sufi saint can know or experience anything which was 
not experienced by him and, therefore, he cannot but follow him. "After 
Muhammad institutional prophethood came to an erid." 88 

Psychology.— Qalb.— The term "heart" (qalb) is very often used by the 
mystics as the repository of the innermost secrets of divine knowledge. It is 
definitely not the physical organ of the human body but a symbolical term 
for the rational or spiritual aspect of man. Following ibn 'Arabi, al-Jili identifies 
it with the spirit of God which, according to the Qur'an, was breathed into 
Adam (xv, 29). 

The heart (qdlb) is the eternal light which was revealed in the essence 
Cain) of existents (i.e., in Muhammad or the perfect man), so that God may 
see man through it. It is the centre of God's consciousness and the circum- 
ference of the circles of all existents. It symbolizes that which is described in 
the Qur'an as the light (xxiv, 35). It reflects all the divine names and attri- 
butes and yet at times it directs its attention to some particular name and 
then becomes a complete reflection of it. 

The true nature of the heart is divine and pure. 87 But due to animal passions 
sometimes it loses this purity which, however, can be recovered after a period 
of physical and spiritual training, the duration of which varies according to 
the degree of the influence of the animal passions. Al-Jili holds that certain 
men of eminence subjected themselves to a rigorous mystic discipline as a 
result of which they received divine illumination as a right and not as a 
favour. In his support he quotes a verse of Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir Jilani who 
says, "I continued grazing in the fields of ridd' (submission to God's will) and 
attained a rank which was the result not of God's favour (but of my own 

Qalb is like a mirror to the realities of Being or it may be called the reflection 
of the universe. God says, "The sky and the earth do not contain Me; it is 
only the heart of My believing servant which can contain Me." This statement, 
according to al-Jili, proves that the heart is primary and the universe is only 

God's comprehension by the heart is of three kinds: (a) By knowledge. 
Heart alone is able to comprehend and know God as He is. Other things can 
and do know God either in one or other of His aspects, but heart alone can 
know Him in all-comprehensiveness, (b) By observation (mushdhadah). 
Through this seeing (kashf) the heart observes the beauties of the face of 
Allah and enjoys the taste of His names and attributes, (c) By vicegerency. 
At this stage, man becomes a complete embodiment of divine names and 

86 Ibid., p. 144. The qualifying word "institutional" implies that prophethood 
of the other type is still possible and, thus, on p. 320 he explicitly says that 
nubuivwat al-wilayah will continue. 

87 "Names and attributes form the nature of the heart." Ibid., p. 193. He 
argues from the Qur'anic verse (xcv, 4): "We indeed created man in the fairest 


A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
attributes so much so that he feels his essence to be identical with divine 
essence. He then become God's vicegerent. 

Reason. — There are three kinds of reason: The first intelligence ('aql 
al-awiml), universal reason ('aql al-hrtli), and ordinary reason ('aql al-ma'ash). 
The first intelligence is the locus of the form of divine knowledge in existence 
and as such it is identical with the Exalted Pen. It contains explicitly and 
analytically what is contained implicitly and synthetically in divine conscious- 
ness. It is the fight of divine knowledge which became the first manifestation 
of the essence in the phenomenal world. 88 

Universal reason is the luminous percipient in which those forms of know- 
ledge are made manifest which are deposited in the first intelligence. Al-Jili 
rejects the view of those who regard universal reason as the sum of reasons 
of all rational beings, for reason is a unit and a substance. 

Ordinary reason is a light which is judged and measured by the laws of 
reflection. Its sphere of activity is confined only to one of the several aspects 
of the universal reason; it has no access to the first intelligence which is 
beyond logical inferences and is the sphere where sacred revelation takes 
place. Ordinary reason has only one scale, i.e., of nature, while universal 
reason has two scales, i.e., of wisdom and power, with the result that knowledge 
gained through the latter is infallible and covers almost everything, while 
knowledge gained through ordinary reason is of limited scope, fallible, and 
is mostly of the nature of conjecture. He relates the three reasons as follows : 
the first intelligence is like the sun, universal reason is like water which 
reflects the rays of the sun, while the ordinary reason is like the reflection of 
water which falls on a wall. 89 

Judgment (Wahm). — The wahm of Muhammad was created by God from 
His perfect light and, therefore, it was manifested in the phenomenal world 
in a perfect form. Wahm is the strongest faculty possessed by man because it 
overpowers reason, reflection, and imagination. It has, thus, the greatest 
capacity for (intellectual) apprehension and preservation. It has power and 
influence over all existence. It is through it that an intellectual person is able 
to acknowledge God and worship Him. It is the fight of certitude and anyone 
who is able to attain supremacy over it becomes the master of the two 
universes, terrestrial and spiritual. But he who is overpowered by it becomes 
subject to darkness and bewilderment. 90 

Himmah is concentration of mind upon an object. It corresponds to what 
is usually called will or power of will. It is a very powerful faculty which, 

88 "From the first intelligence which is referred to as the Principle of Muhammad, 
God created Gabriel. Thus, Muhammad in this sense becomes the father of Gabriel 
and the source and ground of the whole universe. The First Intelligence is called 
al-Ruh al-Amin (the Truthful Spirit) because it is the storehouse of divine 
knowledge and its protector." Ibid., p. 200. 

89 Ibid., pp. 197-200. 
»° Ibid., pp. 200-06. 


Mahmud Shabistari, al-Jili, and Jami 

according to al-Jili, is always busy in the contemplation of God. If anybody 
decides to attain a particular objective and concentrates his will upon its 
attainment, he is sure to succeed in his aim. There are two necessary conditions 
for success, (a) determination in thought about the possibilities of the success 
or otherwise of the objective and then a conviction about the result, and 
(b) concentration of all effort on its achievement. If anybody fails to mani- 
fest this type of activity, he has no chance of success. In the beginning one 
encounters great difficulties and hindrances but, once they are overcome, man 
is on the verge of conquest of his self as well as of the physical universe. 

Al-Jili makes a distinction between will (himmah) and attention (hamm). 
The object of the former is God and the spiritual world, while that of the 
latter is the physical world and pursuits related to it. But for a mystic it is 
not proper to stay at the stage of attention for long, because after some time 
it becomes a hindrance to future progress. 91 

Reflection (Fikr). — It is a key to the Unseen. According to al-Jili, there 
are two methods of approaching the Unseen: (a) pertaining to God, which is 
attained through divine names and attributes; (b) pertaining to the world 
which depends on realizing the true nature of man, all of whose aspects are 
ranged against the aspects of the Merciful. One of these aspects is reflection 
by which we can peep into the mysteries of the Unseen. When a man is able 
to attain perfection in the exercise of reflection, he sees spiritual objects in a 
physical garb. This ascent ('uruj) is of two kinds: (a) One kind of ascent is 
achieved by traversing the path chalked out by the Merciful. The man who 
adopts it is on the straight path and attains creative powers, (b) The second 
kind of ascent is the "red magic" which is involved in thought and imagination 
and in which truth and falsehood are mixed together. It is the path of specu- 
lative thought which lands man in the morass of uncertainty and doubt. 92 

But it does not imply that the exercise of reflection should be condemned 
outright. Al-Jili admits that reflection has the potentiality of leading men 
astray from the right path, but he also suggests certain principles by following 
which it is possible for men to benefit from the light of reflection and save 
themselves from its pitfalls and darkness. The first principle, according to him, 
is reason ('aql), which is in perpetual quest, as well as the acquired experience 
the veracity of which has been testified by men in their mystic life. The second 
is naql, i.e., knowledge gained through a study of the Qur'an and Tradition, 
by which a man comes to believe in the reality of the Unseen. But if a man 
refuses to follow these principles and gives himself over to purely discursive 
reason, he is sure to be led astray. 93 

91 Ibid., pp. 206-10. 

93 Al-Jili relates that he himself was submerged in this path of speculative philo- 
sophy and this was due only to the spiritual influence of his teacher, al-Jabarti, who 
was staying with a group of mystics in Zabid in 779/1377 at the house of one 
Shihab al-Dln Ahmad. Ibid., pp. 212-13. 

93 Ibid., pp. 210-14. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

The Self (Nafs). — According to al-Jili, as the title of chapter fifty-nine 
illustrates, self is the origin of the Lucifer (Iblls) and other evil powers. But 
it does not imply that the origin of the self itself is evil, for, as al-Jili says, 
its origin is the spirit itself of Muhammad. "The self of Muhammad was 
created by God out of His own Self and the self of Adam was made a copy 
of the self of Muhammad." Later on, he says, "Allah created the self of 
Muhammad from His own essence and as His essence is the unity of two 
contraries, two contraries emanated from Him." 

Satan was cursed for his act of disobedience but this curse, according to 
al- jili, consisted in removing him from divine presence. The period of this 
separation is limited to the Day of Judgment after which he will be reunited 
with the divine presence. Thus, according to al-Jili, self is spiritual in origin 
and does not represent any evil power which is antagonistic to the forces of 
good. "The self is the inmost secret of the Lord and (a part of) His essence 
on account of which it has delights. It was created out of the light of attributes 
of Lordship and, therefore, possesses lordly qualities." Al-Jili, therefore, 
identifies self with the soul which was breathed into Adam and enumerates 
the following five stages of the development of the soul on the path of 
spiritual progress: — 

(1) The animal soul is an aspect of the soul which governs the body. 

(2) The evil-prompting soul (nafs al-ammarah) is that aspect by which the 
soul is engrossed in fulfilling the demands of passions and, thus, becomes 
indifferent to divine commandments and prohibitions. 

(3) The inspired soul is that aspect by which human soul is directed and 
guided by God to do good action. 

(4) The self-reproaching soul is that aspect by which man is engaged in 
subduing his inclinations and passions and in turning his attention to 

(5) The tranquil soul is that aspect because of which all evil inclinations 
are totally removed and man feels satisfied with God. 

But beyond these five stages, there is a final stage where body is completely 
under the control of the soul and partakes of the knowledge of the Unseen 
and is able to fly over the earth, etc. At this stage man is characterized by 
God's attributes and becomes identical with His essence. 94 

Religion. — A theory of life which is based on pantheism ends in a con- 
ception of religion which is universal. As the unity of Godhead is manifested 
in the multiplicity of divine names and attributes, so the basic urge of man 
to worship God takes various forms all of which are equally valid and right. 
He argues his case on the basis of certain verses of the Qur'an and traditions. 
He holds that all existent things are created for the purpose of divine worship. 

1 Ibid., pp. 292-93. 

Mahmud Shabistari, al-Jili, and Jfimi 

Everything by its state and activity, nay by its very nature and attributes, 
actually does worship God and, therefore, all existents are servants or wor- 
shippers of God. The forms of worship, however, due to differences in the 
nature of names and attributes, are different. Though humanity was originally 
and by nature one, yet due to differences resulting from the manifestations 
of diverse names, people adopted various pathways towards God — pathways 
which appeared right to the people and which God had decreed for them; 
for none follows a path except that which He wishes them to follow and all 
paths are undoubtedly paths leading to Him as the following verse of the 
Qur'an indicates: "There is no living creature but He has it in His control" 
(xi, 56). 

Death is the extinguishing of the vital heat, while life is the soul's con- 
centration on the body. The life of the body is maintained only so long as 
the soul continues to look at it. After death, the soul assumes a bodily form 
appropriate to it in accordance with the place it occupies. Some mystics 
wrongly deny resurrection of the body. Al-Jili believes on the basis of his 
personal experience and observation that bodies along with souls shall be 
resurrected. 96 

The stage intermediate between death and resurrection (barzakh) is an 
incomplete and non-permanent stage of life after death. It is a world of 
phantasy. There the people will meet with the forms appropriate to their 
actions. If a man had been doing good actions, he would experience different 
forms and shapes of these actions which would carry him progressively to 
better states. Similarly, an evil-doer would experience torments which will 
gradually increase in their intensity. 

Al-Jili enumerates eight different levels of paradise the last of which, 
called the lauded station (maqdm al-mahmud), is meant for none but 
Muhammad. It is the paradise of the essence. Similarly, he describes seven 
different grades or levels of hell. 

But after giving a graphic description of hell and heaven, al-Jili denies 
their existence as separate localities. As the epiphanies of the Lord, they are 
on an equal level ; the inmates of hell will receive tidings of punishment as 
the people of paradise will receive tidings of reward. 96 Hell is nothing but 
the natural darkness which is fire. 97 In the fifty-ninth chapter he discusses in 
detail the nature of Iblls and his manifestations and yet he asserts that Iblis 
is not an individual; it is only the personification of the evil aspect of man's 
nature. 98 

He tries to explain away the usual significance and nature of fire in hell. 
God will create in the people thrown into hell the power to bear punishment 

94 Ibid., pp. 272-73. 
96 Ibid., p. 224. 
9 ' Ibid., p. 243. 
98 Ibid., p. 239. 




A History of Muslim Philosophy 

and, thus, this punishment will change into pleasure." But even then this 
so-called punishment in hell will not last for ever. 

Al-Jili thinks that the beatific vision is the manifestation of God's tajalli 
and His nearness is not confined to the people of paradise or the so-called 
next world. Every individual, here in this life and in life after death, whether 
he is placed in hell or in paradise, continually receives God's tajalli; as a 
matter of fact, his existence is all due to it. 100 

According to al- Jili, God's will is absolutely free from external restraints ; 
His actions are not determined by causes and conditions. 101 Man, on the 
other hand, according to him, is completely determined in his action. 102 He 
says that revealed books demand obedience, while people as a matter of fact 
act as they are determined by their nature. Freedom of choice (ikhitiyar) is 
attributed to them only formally so that God's way to man may be justified. 103 

God's decree, according to al-Jlli, is of two kinds. One is unchangeable and 
in conformity with the demands of the divine attributes and as such is not 
subject to change. The other kind of decree is that which takes place according 
to the law of nature as demanded by the inherent capacity of the existents. 
Decrees of the latter type sometimes do not come to pass due to the contingent 
character of the things of the world. 

Al-Jili subscribes to the doctrine that Being as Being is good and evil is 
only relative and apparent. With regard to the Real, there is no distinction 
between good and evil, for everything without any distinction is the mani- 
festation of the divine beauty and is as such good. Evil or defect in the 
phenomenal world is only due to certain relations. Fire is evil for a person 
who is burnt but is good for the insect who lives in it and gets nourishment 
from it. In short, there is nothing in this world which is absolutely evil. 104 

Al-Jili holds that what is called sin or disobedience is in one respect obedience, 
for it is in conformity with God's will. He upholds the distinction between 
God's will and His command as enunciated by ibn 'Arabi. Sometimes an 
action takes place in full conformity with God's will, though His command 
may be against its occurrence. In such a situation man is disobedient with 
regard to His command but obedient with regard to His will. This point of 

69 He relates his personal experience of seeing people at a particular level of 
hell who were subject to a most severe form of punishment. But even in this 
condition they refused to accept the offer of paradise with disdain, implying that 
the nature of punishment was such that it could be preferred to the so-called 
blessings in paradise. Ibid., pp. 230-31. In another place he says that there are 
many people in hell who are better in the eyes of God than many people of the 
paradise. See p. 232. Also pp. 45, 103, 224, 225. 
"• Ibid., p. 134. 

101 Ibid., Chaps. 17, 18. 

102 Ibid., p. 34. He argues, like other Muslim pantheists, from the Qur'anic verse 
(xxxvii, 96): "Allah had created you and what you make," interpreting ta'malun 
as "what you do." 

103 Ibid., p. 108. 
1M Ibid., p. 114. 

Mahmud ghabistari, al- Jili, and Jami 

view affects al-Jili's treatment of Satan's role. God rebuked him for his dis- 
obedience but he neither repented nor bewailed nor tried to seek forgiveness, 
for only that comes to pass which is according to God's will. 

Al-Jili enumerates seven stages in spiritual progress. The first is what he 
calls Islam which covers five principles: declaration of God's unity and 
Muhammad's prophethood, prayer, fasting, poor-tax, and pilgrimage. 

The second stage is faith (Imdn). It is the first manifestation of the world 
of the Unseen and implies heart's acceptance of the truth thus revealed. It 
is something different from reason. Faith is not belief in a fact arrived at 
through discursive reasoning but acceptance without rational argumentation. 
Light of faith is superior to the light of reason. Kalam (scholastic theology) 
was invented to defend religion against unbelievers and innovators (ahl al- 
bid'ah). It never helps in producing faith in a person. 

The third stage is called piety (salah) which results in good actions. But 
the motive is desire for divine rewards and safety from punishment. A person 
at this stage leads a life of obedience to the laws of the Shari'ah for the sake 
of his self. 

The fourth stage is called ihsdn where one observes the effects of divine 
names and attributes. Such a person does good actions not for the sake of 
his own self nor for rewards, but for his love for God. 

The fifth stage is martyrdom (shadMah) which is of two kinds. The lower 
grade represents the death of a person in an epidemic or on a journey or in 
the battle-field for a righteous cause. The higher grade of martyrdom is to see 
the Real in every existent. 

The sixth stage is called siddiqiyyah which is signified by the mystic saying : 
He who knows his self knows the Lord. This stage has three different planes. 
The first is faith through knowledge or reason (Him al-yaqin). The second is 
faith through personal experience and mystic kashf fain al-yaqin). The third 
is true and perfect faith (jiaqq al-yaqin). The mystic who has attained this 
stage of siddiqiyyah passes through all these planes of faith. In the first, he 
sees the Unseen and is able to observe with the light of faith those secret 
realities which are not open to the common people. Here he attains fana,' and 
then reaches the stage of baqa' where he receives the tajalli of all divine names 
one after the other. He perceives the essence through names. This is the final 
plane of Him al-yaqin. In the next plane, i.e., of 'ain al-yaqin, he receives illumi- 
nation from the divine attributes one by one until he feels himself one with 
the Real in Its aspect of attributes. He progresses gradually till names and 
attributes lose their significance for him. He attains gnosis of the essence and 
through it he is able to understand the operation of names and attributes. 
He now knows the essence through the essence. Thus, he reaches the third 
and the highest plane, i.e., of haqq al-yaqin, which is the first step in the 
seventh stage of nearness (qurb). 

Here man is able to manifest in his person different attributes of the Real, 
though this manifestation cannot be total and absolute. A person who is able 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

to bring a dead man to life, for instance, is manifesting a particular attribute 
of God, though in a limited form. He stands in nearness to God. The first step 
in this stage is the station of friendship where he is able to create through the 
word "Be" (kun) after the manner of God. In the words of a tradition, "God 
becomes the ears by which he hears, the eyes by which he sees, the tongue 
by which he speaks, the hands by which he holds, the feet by which he walks." 
The second step in this stage is the station of love where the lover and the 
beloved become one and where the one represents the other. The last step 
in this stage is the station of khitdm where the individual is characterized by 
the essence (Jiaqiqah) of the Real. This station is beyond the reach of ordinary 


'Abd al-Rahman Jami (817-898/1414-1492), a famous poet and great 
scholar, was the follower of ibn 'Arabi. His book, Lawa'ih, (Flashes), is an 
exposition of the doctrine of the Unity of Being. In the preface he states that 
this doctrine is the result of mystic experience of several eminent saints, but 
his role is that of a mere interpreter, for he has not undergone or experienced 
any mystic trances. He has only put in words what others had experienced 
at first hand. 106 

His statement of the theory follows the logical definition of the word 
"existence." Existence (or Being) is sometimes used as a universal concept 
which in logic is called "secondary concept" (ma'qul-i tkamyyah) and has no 
objective reality corresponding to it but which attaches itself to the quiddity 
(mahiyyah) of a thing mentally. Taking Being in this sense, several critics 
have raised an objection against ibn 'Arabi's statement that God is the 
Absolute Being. According to them, abstract existence having no objective 
reaHty cannot be said to be the source of external reality. Jami, therefore, 
tries to defend ibn 'Arabi by saying that Being or existence has another sense. 
When pantheists use the word "Being" (ivujvd), they refer to reality which 
exists by itself, and on which depends the existence of other beings. As a 
matter of fact, none exists except He and all objective existents are His modes. 106 
But the truth of this statement, according to Jami, is verifiable not so much 
through reason as through mystic experience and intuition. The Absolute 
Being is called God who is the source of all that exists and yet is above all 
multiplicity. He transcends all manifestations and is unknowable. 107 

105 Lawa'ih, Newal Kishore Press, Lucknow (India), 1936, p. 4. 

106 He subscribes to ibn 'Arabi's doctrine that the universe is nothing but 
accidents, all pertaining to a single substance, i. e., the Ultimate Being. He tries to 
give rational arguments in its support. See Lawa'ih 18 and 26. 

107 Lawa'ih 13, 14, 


Mahmud ghabistari, al-Jlli, and Jami 

Essence pure and simple is completely without any determinations and is 
above the distinctions of names, attributes, and relations. It is only when 
this essence descends towards manifestation that attributes such as know- 
ledge, light, and existence make their appearance. The essence is above all 
determinations but it is only when God is viewed by our human and finite 
intellect that He is said to possess attributes. 

Following ibn 'Arabi he rejects the Ash'arite theory of divine attributes 
according to which attributes subsist in and are co-eternal with God, and 
yet are neither identical with nor different from Him. In "Flash" (Lcfifuih) 
fifteen, Jami explains that attributes are distinct from the essence in thought 
but are identical with it in fact and reality. God is knower due to the attribute 
of knowledge, powerful due to the attribute of power, active due to the attribute 
of willing, etc. There is no doubt that as these attributes are different from one 
another with regard to their content, they are similarly distinct from the 
essence. But in reality they are all identical with the essence in the sense 
that in Him there is no plurality of existence. 

The Ultimate Reality, i.e., God, is the ground of everything that exists. 
He is one so that multiplicity cannot affect Him. But when He reveals Him- 
self in multiplicity of forms and modes, He appears to be many. These 
distinctions of one and many, however, are only subjective. God and the 
world are two aspects of the same reality. "The universe is the outward 
(expression) of God and God is the inner (reality) of the universe. Before 
manifestation the world was God and God after manifestation is identical 
with the world." As a matter of fact reality is one, and the dual aspects of 
God and the world are only our ways of looking at it. 108 

The nature of things in the universe in relation to the Absolute is like 
modes which Jami, following ibn 'Arabi, calls shu'un; they have no existence 
or reality in themselves and are mere adjectives of the One Being. 109 These 
modes are included in the Absolute as qualities inhere in a substance or as a 
consequent follows from its ground— as half, third, and fourth, and other 
fractions are related to the integer one; these fractions are potentially included 
in the integer one and become explicit only when repeated. 110 It is clear that 
the conception of creation as commonly understood is irrelevant. Creation in 
the theological sense is not the actualization of the hidden potentialities of 
the Creator, but the production of individuals and things which, though 
deriving their existence from this source, yet enjoy self-determination and 
independence to some extent. According to Jami, Creator and creatures are 
two aspects of the same reality. 

This subjective determination, according to Jami, has two stages. In the 
first stage called martabah-i 'ilmi, these existents appear in divine knowledge 

108 La'ihah 25. 

10 * See La'ihah 26 where Jami tries to explain certain statements of ibn 'Arabi 
as discussed in Fass al- ghu'aiMyyah. 
110 La'ihah 19. " 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

in the form of archetypal ideas (a'ydn-i ihabitah). In the second stage called 
rank of the physical world (martabah-i 'ain), they acquire the attributes and 
properties of external existence. "In short, there is nothing in the external 
world except one reality which appears to be many on account of being clothed 
in diverse modes and attributes." 111 

As essence, the Real is beyond all knowledge; neither revelation nor reason 
can help anyone to comprehend it. No mystic saint can ever claim to experience 
Him as such. "His highest characteristic is the lack of all characterization 
and the end of all knowledge about Him is bewilderment." 112 The first stage 
of the descent is afyadiyyah which is a bare unity devoid of all modes and 
relations. When it is conditioned by these modes, it is called al-wahdiyyah 
where the Real is characterized by manifestation, etc. It is at this stage that 
He assumes the attributes of being the Creator and Sustainer and is charac- 
terized by life, knowledge, and will. It is at this stage also that the existents 
first appear in the consciousness of God as the objects of His knowledge, but 
they do not involve multiplicity in the One. At a later stage these objects 
of God's knowledge are clothed in existence and they assume multiplicity. 
They all exhibit in varying degrees some of the divine names and attributes. 
The perfect men like prophets alone reflect all these names and attributes. 113 
But in spite of all these manifestations and splitting of the One into multi- 
plicity, the unity remains unimpaired. It causes no change in the essence or 
in its attributes. "Although the light of the sun illuminates at once the clean 
and the unclean, yet it does not affect the purity of its light." 114 

Though the one essence is interfused in all existents, its presence in them 
does not mean that everything is equal in this respect. There are differences 
of degree due to the power of receptivity of each thing. No doubt God and the 
world are two aspects of the Real, yet God is God and the world is world. 
"Every grade of Being is determined according to its rank. If you ignore this 
distinction, you become an infidel." 115 

In ethics Jami follows the usual pantheistic tradition and advocates full- 
fledged determinism. As God is the essence of all things and is the inward aspect 
of the world, all actions that are usually ascribed to man should, as a matter 
of fact, be attributed to the Real. But if man is so determined, then how to 
account for evil ? Jami here again follows ibn 'Arabi. It is true, he says, that 
all actions of men are God's, yet it is not proper for us to attribute evil to 
God, for Being qua Being is absolute good. According to him, therefore, evil 
has no positive content; it is privative, lacking something which should 
have been there. Take, for instance, the case of cold. There is nothing evil 

111 La'ihah 18. 
1M La'ihah 24. 

118 La'ihah 17. See also La'ihah 24, 

114 La'ihah 20. 

115 La'ihah 23. 

rhere the idea of One's descent is further 

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi 

in it as such, but with reference to the fruits which it does not allow to ripen, 
it becomes evil. 116 

The ultimate goal of man should be not only fund', passing away of con- 
sciousness, but fana'-i fand', passing away of the consciousness of having 
attained the state of fand'. At this stage, an individual loses not only 
awareness of self but also awareness of this "non-awareness of self." Then, 
according to Jami, faith, religion, belief, or kashf (mystic knowledge and 
experience) all become meaningless. 117 


Mahmud gh,abistari, Ghdshan-i Raz; 'Abd al-Karim al-Jili, al-Insan al-Kamil, 
Urdu translation by Fadal Miran, Lahore; Jami, Lawd'ih, lithographed edition, 
Lucknow, India, 1936; Whinfield, English translation of Ghdshan-i Raz, London; 
English translation of Jamfs Lawd'ih, London; Iqbal, The Development of Meta- 
physics in Persia, Lahore; Lahiji, Sharh-i Qvlshan-i Raz, Lahore; R. A. Nicholson, 
Studies in Islamic Mysticism, London; Affifi, The Mystical Philosophy of Muhytd 
Din-Ibnul 'Arabi, Cambridge; ibn al-'Arabi, Fusus al-Hikam, Urdu translation, 
Lucknow, 1927; Encyclopaedia of Islam. 

"• La'ihah 30. 

117 Lawd'ih 8 and 9. 

Chapter XLIV 


Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, better known as Mujaddid Alf Thani, was the son 
of Shaikh 'Abd al-Ahad Makhdum, who was a devout Muslim always 
anxious to derive spiritual enlightenment from saints. Shaikh 'Abd al-Ahad 
Makhdum met Shaikh Allah Dad at Ruhtas and Sayyid 'Ali Qawam at Jaun- 
pur. He learnt a great deal from both and then returned to Sirhind and lived 
there till his death in 1007/1598. A great master of all the branches of con- 
temporary knowledge, he taught the prevalent text-books on philosophy and 
religion to his pupils intensively. He was also an acknowledged authority on 
jurisprudence. Besides, he taught mysticism to those who were eager to learn 
it, using 'Awdrif al-Ma'drif and Fusus al-Hikam as his texts. He was an ardent 
reader of ibn 'Arabi and was an authority on his teachings. He acknowledged 
ibn 'Arabi's superiority in philosophy and spiritual insight, but he never 
followed him if he found him deviating from the Sunnah. He was such an 

A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
ardent and close follower of the Holy Prophet and his teachings that he never 
left a sunnah (tradition) unpractised. He loved the devotees of Khwajah 
Baha' al-Din Naqshband of Bukhara called the Naqshbandls, 1 and his son 
inherited thia love and devotion to them from him. 

Shaikh Ahmad was born in 971/1563 at Sirhind. His name was Ahmad 
and his surname was Badr al-Din. From his father's side, he descended from 
the Caliph 'Umar. In his early childhood he was sent to a school where in a 
short time he learnt the Holy Qur'an by heart. Then for a long time he was 
taught by his father. Later he went to Sialkot and there covered some more 
courses under the guidance of Kamal Kashmiri. He also studied some works 
on Hadith from Ya'qub Kashmiri, a great scholar of the time. By the young 
age of seventeen he had mastered a great deal of Islamic sciences and had 
begun teaching them to others. 

He visited Agra where he met some great men of learning including abu 
al-Fadal and Faidi. After some time he accompanied his father to Sirhind. 
On his way home, he was married to the daughter of a noble named Shaikh 
Sultan of Thanesar. On his return to Sirhind he stayed with his father 
and through his help established spiritual relationship with the Qadriy- 
yah and Chishtiyyah schools of mysticism. Through the training received from 
his father, he learnt the fundamentals of Sufism. In his studies too he had 
been much influenced by his father. He could not go on a pilgrimage to the 
Holy Land in his father's life-time, although he yearned to do so. He was 
anxious to serve his father during his life and could not leave him alone. 

After his father's death in 1007/1598 he started on this long-cherished pil- 
grimage. On his arrival at Delhi, he heard of the reputation of Khwajah 
Baqi Billah as a saint from a friend, Maulana Hasan. He went to him promptly 
and was well received. The Khwajah inquired of him about his intended 
pilgrimage and then desired him to stay with him for a week or so. He was 
so much impressed by the spiritual attainments of the Khwajah that he made 
up his mind to become his disciple. The Khwajah was very fastidious in taking 
anyone as his disciple but he immediately accepted the Mujaddid as his follower 
and focussed his entire attention upon him. The Mujaddid's heart became the 
seat of the praise of Allah and he made rapid progress in spiritual knowledge. 
Under the Khwajah's guidance he was able to complete his Naqshbandi 
training in a few months. He was warmly congratulated and was invested 
with a gown as a symbol of the completion of his training. He went back to 
Sirhind and began to teach people. After the Khwajah's death he used to 
go to Delhi at the 'urs 2 of his late chief. 

1 Devotees of Khwajah Baha* al-Din Naqshband of Bukhara are called the 

2 'Urs, a gathering to celebrate the death anniversary of a holy man. 

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi 


An important period of his life is that between 1028/1618 and 1032/1622. 
One year of this period was spent in the prison of Gwalior and the other 
three with the Emperor Jahangir and his army. His increasing popularity 
aroused the jealousy of his rivals who poisoned the ears of the Emperor 
and reported him to be dangerous both to the Emperor and the State. The 
Emperor had faith only in the ascetics and hermits. He could not tolerate 
a widely popular Sufi in his land. Perhaps Asaf Jah and some other nobles 
had a hand in this intrigue against the Mujaddid. The matter was worsened 
still by his refusal to bow before the Emperor on the ground that it 
was against the tenets of Islam, with the result that he was imprisoned 
at Gwalior. He was released a year later, but he had to stay for a further 
period of three years with the army as a detenu. Two years before his 
death he was allowed to go to his home at Sirhind. There he died on the 
morning of 28th Safar 1034/lOth December 1624. 

Some hold that the Shaikh's release was due to the fact that the Emperor 
had at last become his disciple and had repented of his action of the previous 
year, but others hold that the above view is not borne by facts. 

It was the crying need of the time that there should appear a man who 
might have the boldness to oppose the worship of the Emperor by refusing to 
bow before him, and, thus, revive the true spirit of Islam and extirpate heresy. 
He fearlessly faced the displeasure of an absolute monarch and chose to go 
into imprisonment rather than renounce his own beliefs and principles. He 
stood firm as a rock against the tide of the Mughul heresy introduced by the 
Emperor's father, Akbar the Great. He is called the Mujaddid because he 
started the movement of purifying Islam and restored its traditional ortho- 
doxy. His courageous stand against anti- Islamic practices resulted in a religious 
renaissance in India. The method adopted by him to achieve his purpose was 
equally bold. He trained groups of disciples and sent them to all the Muslim 
countries and to the various cities of India to propagate what he regarded 
as the true spirit of Islam. He especially asked them to make people realize 
the importance of the Sunnah and prepare them to counteract the forces of 
heresy and to observe and to make others observe the tenets of Islam. His 
letters to the great men of the Muslim world was given wide publicity. In 
them he discussed problems connected with Islam and its revival. He pressed 
the people to follow the Sunnah rigidly and to uproot heresy. He brought 
numerous noblemen and courtiers to his fold, and in this way tried to change 
the attitude of the Emperor and his Court. 

The Mujaddid strictly adhered to religious practices as sanctioned by the 
Holy Prophet and was very hard upon those who coined excuses to violate 
them. He was an authority on Fiqh and Tradition. His knowledge was encyclo- 
pedic and he was endowed with critical insight in matters of religion. His 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

views on mystical revelation and illumination, pantheism, predestinarianism, 
sectarianism, and Sufism are very important. Shaikh Ahmad's reforms can 
be easily divided into three categories: (1) call to the Muslims to follow 
the Sunnah and discard heresy (bid'ah), (2) purification of Islamic mysticism 
(Sufism) from the practices and thoughts which had crept into it through 
non-Muslim influences, and (3) great emphasis on the Islamic Law. 

1. Heresy and the Mujaddid's Opposition to It. — Heresy implies an innova- 
tion. The 'ulama' (theologians) had divided it into two categories, namely, the 
good innovation (bid'at-i hasnah) and the bad innovation (bid'at-i sayyi'ah). 
The Mujaddid says he can find no beauty, benefit, or light in either. In many 
of his letters he is at pains to tell his correspondents that all heresy is repre- 
hensible. He quotes many sayings of the Holy Prophet in denouncing it. 
He symbolizes every kind of heresy with dust, dirt, and pitch darkness and 
regards it as misleading. Those who practise heresy do so for lack of foresight 
and insight. The Holy Prophet said that heresy misleads people and uproots the 
Sunnah itself. When a heresy creeps into religion, it deprives the believers of 
traditional practice. He was of the opinion that Islam is complete in itself; 
heresy is a useless appendage to it. Even if it appears right, it is in fact a 
blot on the fair face of Islam. Any approval of a heresy is a disavowal 
of the completeness of Islam. In the course of time, the Sunnah would 
disappear, and heresy would prosper. Respect shown to an upholder of heresy 
is to deal a blow to Islam. Heresy is a cutting axe to religion, and the Sunnah 
is a guiding star. To strengthen Islam heresy must be uprooted. "May it 
please the Lord," said he, "to show to the 'ulama' that no heresy is good." 

2. Reforms in Sufism and the Nature of Sufistic Perfection. — "If the con- 
temporary Sufis are just, they should not follow their leaders but the Sunnah. 
They should never uphold heresy on the pretext that their Shaikhs did so." 3 
If a heresy appears in the guise of an inspiration, it is immediately accepted 
by the people as a long lost truth. For long the conversations and commen- 
taries of the Sufis had been tending away from the religious Law (SharVah) 
and a time came in the history of Sufism when the Sufis began to proclaim that 
Sufism and the religious Law were poles apart. They did not show the respect 
that the Law deserves. They regarded it as formal and ineffective and, as 
a result, religion and its values suffered much at their hands, though very 
few knew the harm that was being done. This attitude of the Mujaddid elicited 
an unqualified praise from Iqbal for him. Speaking of him he says, "He was 
the guardian of the Muslim faith in India whom God had given a timely 

The Mujaddid said, "The Shaikhs who in their state of insensibility (sukr) 
praise infidelity and induce men to wear the Brahmanical thread 4 are to be ex- 
cused because then they are not themselves. Those who follow them consciously 

! Maktubat-i Mujaddid, Book II, Letter No. 23. 
1 A thread worn by the Brahmans round the neck. 

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi 

in these matters are not to be excused because they do so while they are in 
their senses." 5 The rectitude of speculative knowledge depends on its being in 
concord with theology, and the smallest departure from it is insensibility. 
According to him, someone asked Khwajah Naqshband to define the Sufistic 
institution. He replied that the ultimate end of Sufism is achieved when 
the rational knowledge becomes revelational or inspired, and the abstract 
becomes concrete. He did not say that we should seek something over and 
above the revealed Law. The non-essentials that a Sufi meets on his way to 
Sufistic perfection lose their importance when he reaches his destination. The 
Law alone is then seen as real. The Prophet received it through a messenger 
but the Sufis get it by direct inspiration from God. 6 

The Caliph 'Umar was highly incensed when he was told that Shaikh 'Abd 
al-Kabir Yamani was of the view that Allah has no omniscience. He did not 
attribute this remark to the Shaikh's insensibility or unconsciousness. He 
rather thought it to be an act of infidelity, even if it was committed by the 
Shaikh with a view to being denounced by the world, 7 as public denunciation 
was considered by some Sufis to be contributive to Sufistic perfection. "The 
true aim of Sufistic institution is to attain sound faith, which depends upon 
spiritual tranquillity without which salvation is impossible. When this tran- 
quillity is reached, the heart becomes unconscious of everything but God." 8 

3. Significance of the SharVah. — The divine Law is connected with the soul 
and the spiritualization of the soul depends upon obedience shown to it alone. 
The Sufi learns this after his perfection. 9 While still on their way to Sufistic 
perfection, many Sufis flounder on this mysterious road. One should never lose 
sight of the divine Law whenever one's beliefs and deeds are involved. 10 The 
Naqshbandi Shaikhs have subordinated revelation to the divine Law (SharVah) 
and with them intuition and inspiration are subject to the divine decrees. 
Ecstasy should not be given priority to the divine Law. The Naqshbandis 
are never influenced by the senseless and exaggerated discourses of the Sufis. 
They never uphold ibn 'Arabi's fass 11 against the explicit verses of the Qur'an 
(nass). 1 * The light of God which is revealed in occasional flashes to others is 
to them constantly illuminating. Everything but His name is erased from their 
hearts, and even if they try for ages they can think of nothing but Him. 13 The 
touchstone of the Sufistic revelations and intuitions should be the commen- 
taries of the Sunnite theologians, for even the adherents to heresies and all those 
who go astray regard the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah together as the fountain- 

5 Maktubat-i Mujaddid, Book I, Letter No. 23. 

* Ibid., Letter No. 30. 

7 Ibid., Letter No. 100. 

8 Ibid., Letter No. 161. 

• Ibid., Letter ISTo. 172. 

10 Ibid., Letter No. 220. 

11 Fass, reference to Fusus al-Hikam by ibn 'Arabi. 

12 Nass, an explicit verse of the Qur'an. 

13 Maktubat-i Mujaddid, Book I, Letter No. 243. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

head of their beliefs. They misinterpret them only because of their perverted 
mentalities. 14 The Sufistic discourse which is congruous with the Sunnite 
interpretations is agreeable, while that which is otherwise is not. Upright 
Sufis never transgress the limits set by the divine Law even in their ecstatic 
discourses, dealings, and philosophies. Whenever a Sufi in his ecstasy or 
transport opposes the Law, his revelation is a mirage. It should be interpreted 
and explained correctly. 15 Perfection comes through meek submission to 
God, which implies submission to His Law. This is the best of faiths in the 
eyes of the Lord. 1 * 

You can tell an impostor from a sincere believer by their respective attitude 
to the divine Law. A truly faithful Sufi never transgresses the Law in spite 
of his insensibility and ecstasy. Despite his claim, "I am the True One," 
Mansur Hallaj used to offer five hundred rak'dt" every morning in submission 
to God even while he was chained in the prison cell. It is as difficult for an 
impostor to observe the tenets of the Law as to remove the Mount Caucasus 
from its place. 18 

According to the Mujaddid, the only duty performed by the theologians 
('ulamd') is to issue decrees while it is the people of Allah (saints) who do the 
real work. An attempt at internal purification is to enable one to observe the 
divine tenets; one who is busy only in internal purification to the extent of 
neglecting the divine Law is an infidel and hence his revelations and intuitions 
are like those of an obstinate sinner. The way of uprightness is through divinity 
and the sign of the real internal purification is the sincere observation of and 
submission to the divine Law. The restoration of the Sunnah and the obliga- 
tory prayers is the best of worships and will be rewarded in heaven. 19 The 
Naqshbandi devotees dislike the mystical revelation that contradicts the 
Law and denounce the senseless wranglings of the Sufis. They do not like 
dances and hearing of music. They do not like a loud recital of God's name 
for He is supposed to be ever with them. With them guidance and discipline 
depend upon one's submission to and acknowledgment of the prophetic 
institution; it has nothing to do with external trappings such as the cap or 
the genealogy of the Shaikh as is the case with the other sects. 20 

" Ibid., Letter No. 286. 

15 Ibid., Letter No. 289. 

16 Ibid., Book II, Letter No. 42. 

17 A ralc'at is the unit of a formal Islamic prayer and consists of praying in 
four different positions, standing, kneeling, sitting, and falling down in adoration. 
Each prayer consists of several units. 

18 Maktiibat-i Mujaddid, Book II, Letter No. 95. 
18 Ibid., Letter No. 87. 

80 Ibid., Book I, Letter No. 221. 


Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi 

(Warded al-Wujud or Wahdat cd-Shuhud) 

In order to understand the rift somehow created between Islam and Sufism 
one must ponder over the philosophical aspect of pantheism. Pantheism was 
the real bane of Islam. The Mujaddid knew its fallacy and he was one of 
those who denounced it vehemently. He based his stand on the training 
he had received from his father and his Shaikh, Khwajah Baqi Billah. 
The state of pantheism was revealed to him shortly after he had adopted 
the Naqshbandi way of approach to reality. He was anxious to understand 
the mysticism of ibn 'Arabi. The light of God and of His attributes dawned 
upon him and this, according to ibn 'Arabi, is the ultimate end of Sufism. 
For years he kept thinking that he had reached the state in which he had 
realized the ultimate, but all of a sudden this state vanished. Then he came 
to realize that union with God is only experiential and not existential; God is 
not and cannot be one with anything. God is God and the world is world. All 
that the Sunni theologians said in this respect was true. As the Mujaddid had 
loved pantheism much in the earlier stage of his life, he was rather uneasy 
at this change; yet with the new revelation, the veil was lifted and the 
reality appeared to him in its true form. This world is merely a mark of the 
existence of its Creator, and it merely reflects the various attributes of the 
Lord. It does not consist of these attributes. A pseudo revelation, he thought, 
like erroneous deductions in religious matters, may not be denounced; but 
it must not be followed, lest others be misled. 

With the followers of ibn 'Arabi, pantheism is the final stage of Sufistic 
perfection, while in reality it is nothing but one of the states experienced 
by every devotee. After the devotees have passed this preliminary state, 
they walk on the right Path. Khwajah Naqsbjband says that all that is heard 
or seen or known is a veil. It must be negated with the word "none" (la). 
"I had accepted pantheism," says the Mujaddid, "as it was revealed to me 
and not because I was directed to it by someone else. Now I denounce it 
because of the right revelation of my own which cannot be denied, although 

it is not compulsory for others to follow " ai The presence of the One means 

that the Sufi sees nothing except the One. The pantheist acknowledges the 
presence of the One in everything and thinks all besides it as nothing, yet 
the very same non-entity is regarded by him as the incarnation of the One. 

Pantheism is not at all essential, because sure knowledge is possible with- 
out it, and sure knowledge does not entail the denial of the existence of 
others. The sight of the One is in no way denial of the existence of the others. 
The prophets never preached pantheism, nor did they ever call the pluralists 

1 Ibid., Letter No. 31. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

infidels. They invited people to the oneness of Being. No prophet ever 
preached that creation is an incarnation of the Creator. Their aim was to 
inculcate faith in the One Lord who is unique and has no like. 22 


Only the Qur'an and the Sunnah are to be trusted. The duty of the 
theologians is simply to interpret these fundamental sources and not to add 
anything to them. The mysticism of the Sufis and their revelations and 
inspirations are to be accepted only if they conform to them; otherwise they 
are to be rejected. The promise of God is to unveil Himself to His good 
people in the hereafter and not here. The revelations and "lights" of which 
the Sufis are so proud are nothing but their own mental projections and 
fantasies in order to console themselves. The open sight of God is absolutely 
impossible to people in this world. "I am afraid the beginners would be 
discouraged if I were to point out the drawbacks of these revelations and 
'lights,' but if I remain silent, the true and the false shall remain undis- 
tinguished. I insist that these 'fights' and revelations must be judged with 
reference to the revelation of God on the Mount of Sinai, when the Prophet 
Moses prayed for the sight of Him. Who can bear the sight of Him ?" 23 

"Abundance of miracles is not the sign of a devotee's spiritual superiority. 
A person who has no miracle to his credit may possibly be superior to others 
in certain respects. Shaikh, Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi says, "Miracles are a 
boon from God to render the faith firm, but the man who has been gifted 
with a firm faith does not require them ; it is enough for him that his heart 
praises and remembers Him.' Miracles can be divided into two categories. 
Those of the first category comprise the transcendental knowledge of God 
and His attributes. These are beyond the sphere of rational inquiry and are 
revealed only to a few of His favourites. The second category is concerned 
with revelation about creation and information concerning this universe. 
Unlike the former, even impostors can have a share in the latter. The people 
having miracles of the first category have more chances to reach God than 
those having miracles of the second, but to the common man, the latter are 
more acceptable. ' 24 

Ibn 'Arabi is reported to have said that some pious devotees were ashamed 
of their miracles at their death-beds. Why should they have been so if the 
miracles were the only true touchstone of a pious devotee's superiority? 
Numerous saints are unaware of their position and status but as they are 
not prophets they do not need the awareness of their position. Saintly men 

22 Ibid., Letter No. 272. 

23 Ibid., Letter No. 217. 

24 Ibid., Letter No. 293. 

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi 

can invite people to the religion of their prophet without miracles. Their real 
miracle is to purify the souls of their disciples. The soul being immaterial, 
they have to turn their attention away from materialism. These people even 
without miracles are the sureties of peace and prosperity in this world. The 
distinction between a true and a false devotee is that the former adheres 
strictly to the Law, and the latter adheres to his own whims. The man whose 
company inspires you to be more attentive to God is a true devotee. 26 Not 
even a prophet is safe from the evil designs of the devil. If a devotee is tempted 
by Satan he should judge his inspiration by its accord to the tenets of the 
religion of his prophet. If anywhere the divine Law is silent and the Satan's 
"inspiration" cannot be proved right or wrong, the "inspiration" should be 
regarded as questionable. The divine tenets are silent in matters which are 
superficial, and, therefore, may neither be accepted nor rejected. 

Sometimes, without any attempt on the part of the Satan to mislead us, 
we have false inspirations as in dreams. These false inspirations are the creations 
of our own fancy. 26 


According to the Mujaddid, religious Law has three aspects: knowledge, 
actions, and fidelity. To acquire these aspects of the Law it is necessary to 
win the pleasure of God which excels all blessings. Sufism and gnosticism 
help in purifying one's soul by completing the important aspect of fidelity. 
They have no end in view but this. Ecstasy, "intoxication," and "illumination" 
are by-products of Sufism. They are not its ends. They are merely phantasies 
and projections in order to please the beginners. After passing these on his way, 
the Sufi has to surrender to the divine will, which is his real destination. One 
among thousands achieves pure fidelity. Blind men take the by-products for 
the principal articles and are, therefore, deprived of the truth. A Sufi has to 
experience these states before his acquisition of the truth. 27 

The Mujaddid himself experienced these intermediate states for years, and 
ultimately achieved the goal of fidelity. Those who think the Law superficial 
and regard gnosis as the right Path are misled. They are content with the 
states, the means, and ignore the end. 28 The straight Path is the Path of the 
Holy Prophet whose guidance is the best. Internal purification completes the 
external and is not contradictory to it. When we submit devoutly to God's 
beloved, the Holy Prophet, we become His beloved. 29 

Submission to the Prophet's tradition (Sunnah) is the real bliss, while 

25 Ibid., Book II, Letter No. 92. 
2e Ibid., Book I, Letter No. 107. 
" Ibid., Letter No. 36. 
88 Ibid., Letter No. 40. 
29 Ibid., Letter No. 41. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

opposition to it is the cause of all disasters. Hindu sadhus or ascetics undergo 
much privation but all in vain, for it is not in accordance -with the true Law. 
The most that such ascetics can achieve is some material gain which is tran- 
sitory. The devotees of the religious Law are like dealers in diamonds who 
work less but gain more. 30 

On the completion of a Sufi's life, real pleasure is derived from the per- 
formance of obligatory prayers, while in the beginning non-obligatory prayers 
are more pleasant. 31 

The states of ecstasy, gnosis, and "illumination" are good if they are sub- 
servient to the Law; otherwise they are misleading. If not weighed in the 
balance of the Law, they are worthless. 32 

The Sufistic conduct helps one to abide by the divine Law. It controls one's 
lower passions and undermines their influence. It is neither antagonistic nor 
equivalent to the religious Law. It is rather subservient to it. 33 

Some people are punctilious in the observance of the form of Law, but 
they ignore its intrinsic truth and worth and regard salvation as their only 
aim. Some people achieve the truth but assert that they have achieved it 
through their own effort and not through the help of the divine Law, which 
for them is merely formal. They think only of the form of the Law and not of 
the spirit of it. Either group is ignorant of its intrinsic virtues and is deprived 
of the divine guidance. True theologians alone are heirs to the prophets. 34 

Those who regard a saint (wall) superior to a prophet are senseless and 
are not fully aware of the attributes of prophethood which is superior to 
saintship (wilayah) in all respects. 35 

The Mujaddid was a great religious enthusiast. The movement that he 
started in religion is still continued by his followers in various parts of the 
Muslim world. Has heritage is indispensable for a modern reconstruction of 
religious thought in Islam. He was a Sufi but he did not think Sufism as the 
sole aim of life. For him it was merely a means to an end, the end being 
complete and unconditional adherence and fidelity to the Qur'an and the 
Sunnah. For an essentially just estimate of his teachings one must consider 
him with reference to his times. His books are a valuable record of bis 
practice and thought. He gave us a treatise on Sufistic perfection, but the 
best of him is found in three volumes of his letters. The total number of 
letters in all these volumes is 535. With some exceptions, these are arranged 
in their chronological order. Five of his letters have been lost. They prove 
beyond doubt the encyclopediac knowledge he had, and make a pleasant and 
enlightening reading. 

*» Ibid., Letter No. 1U. 

31 Ibid., Letter No. 137. 

32 Ibid., Letter No. 207. 
38 Ibid., Letter No. 210. 

34 Ibid., Book II, Letter No. 18. 

35 Ibid., Book I, Letter No. 251. 

Jalal al-Dln Dawwani 


Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, Maktubdt-i Mujaddid, Newal Kishore, Lucknow; Burhan 
Ahmad Faruqi, Mujaddid' a Conception of Tawhid; M. Farman, Hayat-i Mujaddid, 
Board for Advancement of Literature, Lahore, 1958; M. Ikram| Rmid~i Kauihar; 
Jahangir, Tuzak, Newal Kishore, Lucknow; Ahmad Husain Khan. Jaivcthir 
Mujaddadiyyah; Badruddin Ibrahim, Hadrat al-Quds; Khwajah Kamal al-Din, 
Baudot al-Qayyumiyyah; M. Amin, Maqamat Ahmadiyyah; Muhammad Hasan, 
Maqamat Imam Rabbani. 

Part 4. The "Philosophers" 

Chapter XLV 


Muhammad bin As'ad Jalal al-Din was born in 830/1427 at Dawwan in 
the district of Kazarun, of which his father was the Qadi. Having received 
early education from his father and then from Mahjwi al-Ari and Hasan bin 
Baqqal, he studied theology under Muhyi al-Din Ansari and Hammam al-Din 
at Shiraz, where he ultimately became professor at the Madrasat al-Aitdm. 
In a short time he became famous for his knowledge and learning, attracting 
students from far and wide. It was in recognition of his literary and academic 
fame that he got admission into the Court of Hasan Beg Khan Bahadur 
(Uziin Hasan), the then Turkish ruler of Mesopotamia and Persia. He ulti- 
mately rose to the eminent position of the Qadi of the Court, which position 
he retained under Sultan Ya'qiib as well. He died in 907/1501 or 908/1502, 
and was buried in his native village Dawwan. 1 

Tusi revived the tradition of philosophical disciplines during the Mongol 
period; Dawwani did the same during the Ottoman period. Whereas the 
former gave a fresh impetus to the study of ibn Shia by writing commentaries 
on some of his works and by defending him against his detractors, the latter 
reorientated the study of Shihab al-Din Maqtiil by writing a commentary 
on his Hayakil-i Nur and elaborating his illuminative philosophy (fyikmat-i 
ishrdq) in his own works. Both are revivalists, but they differ in their approach 
to the truth. The one is a true Avicennian, the other a faithful Suhrawardian. 
Brockelmann has enumerated seventy of his extant works, 8 of which the 
important ones are listed below: — 

1 Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. I, p. 933. 

2 Geschichte der Arabischen IAtteratur, Suppl., Vol. II, 1937, pp. 306-09. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Sharif, 'Aqa'id-i 'Advdiyyah, Istanbul, 1817. 

Sharh Tahdhib al-Mantiq wa cd-Kaldm, Lucknow, 1264/1847. 

Al-Zaura, Cairo, 1326/1908. 

Risalah fi Ithbdt al-Wajib al-Qadlmah w-al-Jadidah. 

Risalah fi Tahqtq Nafs al-Amr. 

Risalah fi lthbat al-Jauhar al-Mufariq. 

Risalah fi 'Adalah. 

Risalah fi al-Hikmak. 

Sharh aLHayakil. 

Anmudhaj al-'Ulum. 

Al-Masa'U al-'Asr fi al-Kalam. 

Ahhjdq-i Jalali, translated into English under the title of The Practical 

Philosophy of the Mohammadan People by W. P. Thompson London 


Dawwani was commissioned by Sultan Hasan Beg to revise the ethical 
treatise of Tusi with the express aim of "correcting and completing" it from 
the illuminative (ishraqi) point of view. The structure of Akhjdq-i Jalali is 
basically the same as that of Akhldq-i Nasiri, but in the execution of the work 
Dawwani has artistically ornamented it with the Qur'anic verses, precepts 
of the Prophet and his Companions, and the moving utterances of the mystics. 
He not only abbreviated and simplified Tusi's treatise but also amplified and 
elaborated it at places in the light of the philosophy of illumination; besides 
he added much by way of literary adornment. 

Following ibn Miskawaih, Tusi regards ultimate happiness (sa'Mat-i quswa) 
as the summum bonum of life. His concept of ultimate happiness, because of 
its reference to the heavenly (qudsi) element, is intrinsically different from 
the Aristotelian concept of happiness. Dawwani goes a step further and 
identifies the moral with the religious ideal. It is with reference to God- 
intended vicegerency that the Qur'an distinguishes right from wrong, evaluates 
knowledge and appreciates power; therefore, vicegerency of God (khilafat-i 
ildhi) and not ultimate happiness should be the inspiring ideal of the "noblest 
of the creation." His moral theory, in other words, is based on the place or 
position of man in the universe as determined by God and not by man him- 
self, which is that of the vicegerency of God. 

What entitles man to this high office of responsibility ? Dawwani finds the 
answer in a saying of the Caliph 'AH. Man, according to this saying, occupies 
a middle position between the angels and the brutes. The former have intellect 
without desire and ire. They have no temptations, nor freedom of choice; 
being perfect by nature, they are above morality. The latter, on the other 
hand, have desire and ire without intellect, and, thus, being incapable of 
controlling their irrational impulses, are below morality. Man has both. He 

Jalal al-Dln Dawwani 

can, however, rise above the angels by subordinating desire and ire to intellect, 
and can also sink below the brutes if desire and ire enslave his intellect. The 
brutes can be excused for want of intellect, but not man. The excellence of 
man's perfection is enhanced by his natural temptation and deliberate resist- 
ance to evil; the angels have been spared the painful processes of conflict, 
deliberation, and choice. Thus, man alone is a free, responsible and, therefore, 
moral being, and his right to the vicegerency of God is established on this 
very ground. 3 

How is this vicegerency to be accomplished by man ? Quoting the Qur'anic 
verse, "Whosoever gains wisdom, verily he gains great good," Dawwani holds 
that mature wisdom (hikmat-i balighak) is the royal road to this exalted 
position. But mature wisdom, being a happy blend of theory and practice, 
is essentially different from the Socratic dictum: Knowledge is virtue. The 
Greeks were interested in ascertaining the speculative principles of morals; 
the practical aspect of ethics was quite alien to their temperament. 

Mature wisdom can be acquired through intellectual insight as well as 
through mystic intuition. Both the philosopher and the mystic reach the 
same goal through different ways. What the former "knows," the latter "sees," 
there being complete harmony between the findings of the two. 

Influenced by the Qur'anic doctrine of moderation* no less than the Aristote- 
lian doctrine of the mean, Dawwani holds that the mean constitutes the good in 
all matters. But it is determined not by "reason" and "prudence," as held by 
Aristotle, but by the divine Law. Reason can at best determine the form of 
morality, the content whereof must come from the divine Code. Since the 
path of moderation is difficult to tread, Dawwani has identified it with the 
bridge over hell (pul sirdt) — a bridge which is narrower than a hair and 
sharper than a sword. 

Moral struggle presupposes that all dispositions (khulq), whether innate or 
acquired, are capable of modification and change. Constant instruction and 
discipline and punishment, as evidenced by experience, can change the wicked 
into the virtuous. By these means the evil is greatly reduced, if not completely 
eradicated. And since a person does not know beforehand that a particular 
evil disposition would resist all attempts to modify and change it, it is in 
consonance with the dictates of both reason and religion that he should exert 
his utmost for its modification. 

To Plato virtue was the moderation of human nature as a whole. Aristotle 
assigned to each virtue the place moderation would give it. But he could go 
no further than this. The Greeks "systematized, generalized, and theorized," 
but the accumulation of positive knowledge based on patient, detailed, and 
prolonged observation was altogether "alien to their temperament." This 
weakness of the Greek genius was removed by a rather practical and penetrating 

3 Akhlaq-i Jalali, p. 24. 
1 Qur'an, ii, 190; v, 2. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

mind of the Muslims, 5 who classified ethics as a "part of practical philo- 
sophy." With ibn Miskawaih, the first Muslim moralist, the emphasis shifted 
from broad generalizations to individual differentiation and specification of 
virtues. He not only determined seven, eleven, twelve and nineteen species 6 
of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice respectively— the four cardinal 
virtues of Plato— but also developed an attractive theory of the causes and 
cures of mental diseases, a process which culminated in al-Ghazali with a 
shift from an intellectual to a mystic outlook. 7 

Ibn Miskawaih had worked out the details of Plato's theory of virtue, but 
with Tusi the problem was that of improving and completing the Aristotelian 
theory of vice. He emphasized for the first time that deviation from the 
equipoise is not only quantitative but also qualitative, and, thus, added per- 
version (radd'at) as the third generic cause of vice 8 to the Aristotelian excess 
and deficiency of a State. Tusi also set the seal of completion on practical 
philosophy by including domestics and politics in his ethical treatise in order 
to meet the deficiencies of the ethical work of ibn Sina (Kitab al- Taharat) and of 
that of Farabi. Lastly, Tusi revolted against the ascetic ethics of al-Ghazali. As- 
ceticism, for him, is the negation of moral life, for man is by nature a social being 
as is indicated by the word for man in Arabic, insan (associating), and body is 
not an obstacle but an instrument of the soul for attaining the perfection it is 
capable of. 9 Nevertheless, he recognizes asceticism as a necessary stage in the de- 
velopment of mystic consciousness, of which he has had no personal experience. 
Inspired by the illuminative philosophy of Shihab al-Din Maqtul, Dawwani 

finds complete harmony between philosophy and mysticism. What the mystii 
"sees," the philosopher "knows," and what the latter "knows," the forme: 
' He, therefore, gave a Qur'anic bias to the ethics of Tusi. 


Following Tusi, Dawwani too has used Siydsat-i Mudun more in the sense 
of the science of civics than in the modern sense of politics. The origin, func- 
tion, and classes of society and the need of a government headed by a just 
king are the same for Dawwani as for Tusi. Monarchy is held to be the ideal 
form of government, in which king is the second arbitrator of justice, the 
first being the divine Law. After reproducing the general principles of distribu- 
tive and corrective justice from Akhfaq-i Nasiri, Dawwani adds ten moral 
principles of his own, which ought to be observed by a king in order to ensure 
efficient administration of justice. 

5 Briffault, The Making of Humanity, p. 192. 

6 Tahdhlb al-Akhl&q, pp. 15-20. 

7 Mizan al-' Anted, pp. 83-91. 

8 Akhlaq-i Nasiri, p. 1 14. 

9 Ivanow, Tasawwurat, p. 92. 

Jalal al-Din Dawwani 

In the first place, the king should invariably consider himself to be the ag- 
grieved party while deciding a case, so that he may not wish for the aggrieved 
what is abhorrent to himself. Secondly, he should see that the cases are dis- 
posed of quickly, for justice delayed is justice denied. Thirdly, he should not 
indulge in sensual and physical pleasures which ultimately bring about the 
ruin of a State in their wake. Fourthly, royal decisions should be based on 
clemency and condescension rather than on rashness and wrath. Fifthly, in 
pleasing people he should seek the pleasure of God. Sixthly, he should not 
seek the pleasure of the people by displeasing God. Seventhly, he should 
render justice if decision is left to his discretion, but forgiveness is better 
than justice if mercy is begged of him. Eighthly, he should associate with 
the righteous and lend ears to their counsels. Ninthly, he should keep every- 
one to his rightful place and should not entrust high office to the low-born 
people. Lastly, he should not be content with personal abstention from 
injustice, but should so conduct the affairs of the State that none under his 
authority is guilty of this offence. 


Like Tusi and others, Dawwani's cosmology consists of the gradual emanation 
of ten intellects, nine spheres, four elements, and three kingdoms of nature. 
The active intellect, the intellect of the sphere of the moon, bridges the gap 
between the heaven and the earth. 

Quoting the Prophet's saying that intellect is the noblest of all the 
created things, Dawwani identifies the first intellect ('aql-i awwal) with the 
original essence of Muhammad. It conceives the idea of all things past, present, 
and future, just as a seed potentially contains roots, branches, leaves, and 
fruit. The spheres which are stationary in nature, but changeable in qualities, 
control the destiny of the material world. Fresh situations come into being 
through the revolutions of the spheres, and every moment the active intellect 
causes a new form into existence to reflect itself in the mirror of elemental 
matter. Passing through the mineral, vegetative, and animal states, the first 
intellect finally appears in the form of acquired intellect ('aql-i mustafad) 
in man, and, thus, the highest point having coalesced with the lowest, the 
circle of being is completed by the two arcs of ascent and descent. 

The first intellect is like the seed which, having sprouted into twigs, branches, 
and fruit, reverts to its original form of unity possessing collective potentiality. 
This circular process takes the form of motion (harkat-i tvada'i), in growing 
bodies of increasing or decreasing their magnitude, and in the rational soul that 
of the movement of thought. All these motions are, in fact, shadows of the 
divine motion proceeding from God's love for self-expression, which in mystic 
terminology is called the flashing of Self upon Self. 10 

« Akhlaq-i Jalali, pp. 258-59. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Dawwani's metaphysical treatise, al-Zaura is a critical evaluation of Kaldm 
and of the teachings of the spiritual leaders, the philosophers, and the mystics, 
from the illuminative (ishrdqi) point of view. He fully appreciates the utility 
and importance of the first three disciplines but takes a serious notice of the 
inconsistency with Islam of some of the issues raised by them. He believes 
that philosophy and mysticism both ultimately lead to the same goal, yet he 
cannot shut his eyes to the eminence and superiority of the latter over the 
former. Mysticism, in his view, is free from doubt and uncertainty because it 
is due to divine grace and is, therefore, nearer to prophethood. 11 


Jalal al-Din Dawwani, Akhlaq-i Jalali, Lucknow, 1916; al-Zaura, MS. No. Ar. 
™ 7 t t^t y mversit y Librar y- ^"ore; W. F. Thompson, The Practical 
Ptelosophyofthe Mohammadan People, London, 1890; A. M. A. Shushtery, An Outline 

London^, D m'T'T,' ™V ^ ^ An M ™*™ » ^cioZ^y in Islam, 
London 1933; DM. Donaldson, Studies in Muslim Ethics, London, 1953; Encyclo- 
paedn :of Islam, Vol II, London, 19 13-28 ; E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, 

«« ?Al^!Sr 19 ? W Ab ? f Salam NadaWi ' ^*« /-»», A»m2ri Vol. I 
I ^ !k]l' ^^ C - BrockeI ™nn,Ge^cfe e der Arabischen Litteratur, 2nd edn. 
Leiden, 1943, Suppl., 1937. 

11 Al-Zaura, p. 116. 

Chapter XLVI 


Ibn Khaldun wrote no major work in fields accepted in the Muslim philo- 
sophic tradition, or which he himself considered to be the proper fields of 
philosophic investigation— logic, mathematics, physics, and metaphysics- 
politics, ethics, and economics.* Consequently, he was not regarded by 
his contemporaries, or by subsequent Muslim students of philosophy, as a 
philosopher (failasuf) in the sense in which al-Farabi, ibn Sina, and ibn Rushd 
were identified as such. Nevertheless, both his contemporaries and later 
Muslim students of history and society were aware that ibn Khaldun had 
made^hejnost significant contribution to these specialized fields through his 
1 The summaries of "many" of the works of ibn Rushd, which he wrote as a 

MuTvi Tnfn T^hI £ ^ » P^vf : al - Ma W™' *«& <*-Tib, ed. Muhammad 
Hi ,S al-Ha mi d [10 vols., Cairo, al-Maktabat al-Tijariyyah, 1367/1947, 
fh?ind7„ fif' "5PI' ^ ?u OV ^.° f ValUe in COTrob °™ting the philosophic notions 
found m the History." Ibn Khaldun himself did not evidently consider them of 
permanent value; they have not as yet been recovered, and it is not known whether 
they have survived at alt. 

Ibn Khaldun 

undertaking a scientific investigation of them. It was, however, the enhanced 
interest in the study of history and society in modern times which led to the 
devotion of increased attention to ibn Khaldun's thought, to the recognition 
of his rank as a major Muslim thinker, and to the judgment that he was 
equal, if not superior, to the other well-known Muslim philosophers. This 
was in part the result of the higher prestige, and of the peculiar theoretical 
importance, which history and the science of society (as compared to the 
theoretical part of traditional philosophy) have come to enjoy in modern times. 
But the more important reason for the singular interest in ibn Khaldun in 
modern times lies in the conclusions of his investigations in history and society. 
To the moderns, these conclusions appear to be more scientific than either 
the conclusions of the legal investigation of Muslim jurists or the politico- 
philosophic investigations of Muslim philosophers. Perhaps on the analogy 
of the revolt of modern science against traditional philosophy, and especially 
of modern political philosophy and social science against traditional political 
philosophy, it has been assumed that ibn Khaldun must have attempted a 
similar, or parallel, revolt against traditional Muslim philosophy in general, 
and against traditional Muslim political philosophy in particular. 

Because of its important implications for the understanding of ibn Khal- 
diin's thought, this crucial assumption deserves critical examination. The 
larger context of the present work seems to warrant an inquiry into the pre- 
cise relationship between ibn Khaldiin's new science and the Muslim philo- 
sophic tradition. This relationship has been for the most part viewed in the 
perspective, and under the influence, of the modern philosophic and scientific 
tradition. In the present work, in contrast, the reader comes to ibn Khaldun 
through the preceding Greek and Muslim philosophic tradition, which ibn 
Khaldun knew and in relation to which he can be expected to have taken his 
bearing. The reader, thus, must be shown, on the basis of ibn Khaldun's con- 
ception of philosophy and science, and of his conception of the relation be- 
tween his new science and the established philosophic science, whether he 
was in fundamental agreement with that tradition (in which case it must be 
shown what the specific character of his contribution to that tradition was), 
or in fundamental disagreement with it, and hence was the teacher of, not only 
a new, but a novel doctrine. That this procedure is the sound historical pro- 
cedure is usually admitted. But what has not been seen with sufficient clarity 
is that, in addition to providing the proper historical perspective for the 
understanding of ibn Khaldun's thought, it is of fundamental importance to 
elicit the basic principles or premises of his new science, and thus contribute 
to the understanding of its true character. 

Ibn Khaldun's place in the history of Muslim philosophy, and his contribu- 
tion to the Muslim philosophic tradition, must be determined primarily on 
the basis of the "Introduction" (Muqoddimah) and Book One of his "History" 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

(Kim al-'Ibar)* That a work exploring the art of history, and largely devoted 
to an account of universal history » should concern itself with philosophy is 
justified by ibn Khaldun on the ground that history has a dual character- 
(a) an external (zdhir) aspect which is essentially an account of, or informa- 
tion about, past events; and <b) an internal (batin) aspect. With respect to 
this latter aspect, history "is contemplation (theory: nazar) and verification 
(tafyqiq), a precise causal explanation of things generated (ka'indt) and their 
origins (or principles: mabadi), and a profound science film) of the qualities 
and causes of events; therefore, it is a firm and principal part (asl) of wisdom 
(hikmah), and deserves, and is well fitted, to be counted among its sciences."* 
Whatever ibn Khaldun's position concerning the relation between wisdom 
and philosophy may have been (ibn Rushd, who was the last of the major 
Muslim philosophers whom ibn Khaldun studied, considered that the two had 
become identical in his own time),* he frequently uses the expressions "wise 
men" (huhama') and "philosophers" (fcOasifah) interchangeably, and it is 
certain that he identifies the sciences of wisdom with the philosophic sciences « 
Furthermore, in his classification and exposition of the various sciences, he 
defines the basic characteristics of these sciences, enumerates them, and makes 
ample reference to the Greek and Muslim authors, who represent the specific 
philosophic tradition which he accepts as the tradition. 

Ibn Khaldun's definition of the philosophic sciences is based on an emphatic 
and clear-cut distinction, if not total opposition, between the sciences which 
are natural t o man as a rational being (therefore, he names them also "natural" 
,J ^ Intr oduction and Book One are known together as the "Introduction" 
i^lff^v rl- ?ZZ, P - 898 - References in th * ^apter and in that on 
ibn Khaldun s Political Philosophy (cf. below, Book IV, Part 6, Chap XLIX) are 
to the volumes, pages (and lines) of the Quatremere edition (Q) together with 
the corrections and/or additions supplied by de Slane and F. Rosenthal in their 
respective French and English translations, both of which reproduce the pagination 
chaste? Uatremere edlti ° n ° n the mar § in - Cf - the Bibliography at the end of this 

3 Cf. the account of the parts of the 'Ibar, below, d 898 

4 Q. I, 2:17-19. * 

5 ° r that philosophic questions (i. e., the quest for wisdom) have become scientific 
logoi. Therefore ,bn Rushd omits the well-known opinions and dialectical 
arguments found in Aristotle's works, and does not enumerate the views current 
m ™ own tune « Aristotle did, "because wisdom in his (Aristotle's) time had 
not become complete, and contained opinions of groups who were believed to be 
wise. But now that wisdom has become complete, and there being in our time no 
groups (merely) behaved to be wise . . . the contemplation of these sciences must 
be according to the mode in which mathematics is contemplated today. For this 
identical reason we must omit from them also the dialectical arguments." Ibn 
Rushd Tag* al.Sama< al-TaWi ("Paraphrase of the Physics"), ITcairo, Dar 
al-Kutub, Htkmah No. 5, fol. 1 of Ahmad Fu'ad al-Ahwani, Talkhis Kitab al-Nafs 
(Paraphrase du deAnima"), (Cairo, Imprimerie Misr, 1950), Introduction, p. 16- 
Kitabal-Sama' al-Tabl't, (Hyderabad, Dairatul-Maarif, 1365/1945) pp 2-3 

, Jd £ I?' ?" H ' 385 ^ IU ' 87:3 ~ 4 {whOTe b ° th Wisd ° m and P^osophy are 
used together in naming these sciences), 210. 


Ibn Khaldun 

[tabi'iyyah] and "rational" or "intellectual" f'aqllyyahj sciences) 7 and the 
legal, transmitted, or positive sciences based on the divine Law, which are 
the special property of a particular religious community. In contrast, the 
philosophic sciences are "those which a human being can understand by 
(virtue of) the nature of his thought and the subjects, the problems, the ways 
of demonstration, and the modes of teaching to which he is guided by per- 
ception, until his contemplation and investigation lead him to understand 
the true from the false in as far as he is a human being possessing thought." 8 

The philosophic sciences are classified into four fundamental sciences or 
groups of sciences : logic, mathematics, physics, and metaphysics or the divine 
science. 9 This is followed by a concise history of these sciences (especially 
among the ancient Persians, the Greeks, and the Muslims) which emphasizes 
(a) the relation between the rise and development of these sciences, and cultural 
development and prosperity, and their decline subsequent to cultural dis- 
integration; and (b) the anti-philosophic attitude of the divine laws and reli- 
gious communities, which led (especially in cases where sovereigns adopted 
this attitude, or religious orthodoxy was able to determine the type of learning 
pursued in the community) to deserting the philosophic sciences. 10 

The philosophic sciences reaching the Muslims were those of the Greeks. 11 
Of the Greek philosophic schools ibn Khaldun mentions specifically those of 
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and also the commentators of Aristotle, i.e., 
Alexander of Aphrodisias, Themistius, and others. Aristotle is singled out 
as "the most well grounded of them in these sciences." 18 Muslims recovered 
these sciences from the disuse to which they had fallen among the Byzantines, 
and after a period of searching for, acquiring, and translating the works 
preserved among the latter, Muslim scholars studied these Greek philosophic 
sciences, became skilled in their various branches, reached the highest level 
of proficiency in them, and surpassed some of their predecessors. Although 

7 Q. II, 385, III, 86-87. 

8 Q. II, 385 : 5-9. 

* There are three schemes according to which these sciences are enumerated. 
The four sciences or groups of sciences mentioned here appear in all of them. 
The order is that of the central scheme which divides the philosophic sciences 
into seven (mathematics, being subdivided into arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, 
and music) (Q. Ill, 88: 12-19). This scheme seems to emphasize the order in which, 
according to ibn Khaldun himself, these sciences follow one another. Consider the 
characterization of logic as that which comes first (muqaddam) — (note also the 
use of muqaddimah as "principle" or "premise") — and of mathematics as "coming 
after" logic (ba'dahu). In the first scheme (logic, natural science [or] metaphysics, 
and mathematics), the order seems to be in accordance with the contemplation 
of these sciences as pursued among them ('indahum), i.e., among the philosophers 
(Q. Ill, 87-88). The third scheme (mathematics, logic) gives a summary exposition 
of these sciences "one by one" (Q. Ill, 88: 19-20, 93ff.). 

10 Q. Ill, 88-92. 

11 Cf. Q. I, 62-63. 
14 Q. Ill, 90:14. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

they differed with Aristotle on many issues, they generally recognized him 
as the foremost teacher (Mu'allim-i Awual). Of Muslim philosophers, ibn 
Khaldun mentions by name al-Farabi, ibn Sina, ibn Bajjah, and ibn Rushd. 
He indicates the decline of the philosophic sciences in western Islam after 
the disintegration of cultural life in that region, and refers to reports con- 
cerning the then nourishing state of these sciences in Persia and eastward, 
and their revival and spread in western Europe. 13 

Thus, there seems to be little doubt that when ibn Khaldun says that the 
study of the internal aspect of history is to be made one of the sciences of 
wisdom, he does not simply mean that it deserves a systematic, rational, 
and scientific study in general. What he means is much more specific and 
precise. The study of the internal aspect of history, if it is to be properly 
scientific, must be recognized as a significant part of, and is to be pursued as 
belonging to, one of the philosophic sciences or one of a group of the philo- 
sophic sciences which he enumerates. These are the Greek philosophic sciences 
(of the Socratic school) 14 epitomized in the works of Aristotle and also in 
those of the Muslim philosophers who belonged to that school and concen- 
trated primarily on the exposition of the works of Aristotle. 

To which of these sciences or groups of sciences does the investigation of 
the internal aspect of history belong ? To answer this question, a fuller state- 
ment of the character and principles of this investigation is needed. Ibn 
Kjjaldun first formulates what this investigation is to comprise, and how 
it is to be conducted, through a critique of Islamic historiography and the 
examination of the causes of the errors of historians in the "Introduction," 
in which he illustrates the distinction between the external and internal 
aspects of history and establishes that these errors are primarily due to the 
ignorance of the nature and causes of historical events, both in so far as 
these are permanent and homogeneous as well as in so far as they change and 
are heterogeneous. Then, in the first part of the introduction to Book One, 
the true character of history is said to be identical with "information about 
human association, which is the culture f'umran) of the world, and the states 
which occur to the nature of that culture . . . (and) all that is engendered in 
that culture by the nature of (these) states."" The primary cause of errors in 
transmitting historical information (and, consequently, in writing an untrue 
account of history), thus, becomes ignorance of the nature of the states of 

13 Q. Ill, 90-93. 

14 For the distinction among the various Greek philosophic schools (which had 
equally distinct groups of followers in Muslim philosophy), and of their different 
attitudes to divine Laws, cf. al-Shahrastani, al-MUal w-al-Nihal, ed. Ahmad 
Fahmi Muhammad, 3 Vols., Cairo, Maktabat al-Husain al-Tijariyyah, 1367-68/ 
1947-48, Vol. II, pp. 104-07, 231 ff. ' 

15 Q.I, 56: 6-13. 

Ibn Khaldun 

culture. The states of culture and what is engendered in them is considered 
to form a part of all engendered things, whether essences or acts, each of 
which inevitably has a nature specific to its essence and to its accidental 
states. "What the historian needs for examining historical reports, and for 
distinguishing the true from the false, is knowledge "of the natures of engen- 
dered [existents] and the states in existence" 16 so as to be able to examine 
and determine the possibility or impossibility of the occurrence of the events 
themselves. Thus, the basic principles (i.e., the subject-matter, problems, 
method, and end) of a new investigation emerge, and are finally formulated 
as follows: 

"The rule for distinguishing truth from falsehood in the [investigation of 
historical] information on the grounds of possibility and impossibility is for 
us to contemplate human association, which is culture, and to distinguish the 
states pertaining to its essence and required by its nature, what is accidental 
and need not be reckoned with, and what cannot possibly occur in it. If we 
do that, it would be for us a rule in distinguishing truth from falsehood in 
[historical] information, and veracity from lying, in a demonstrative manner 
admitting of no doubt. Then, if we hear about some states taking place in 
culture, we shall know scientifically what we should judge as acceptable and 
what we should judge as spurious. This will be for us a sound criterion by 
which historians will pursue the path of veracity and correctness in what they 
transmit. This is the purpose of this First Book of our work. It is, as it were, a 
science independent by itself. For it has a subject (namely, human culture 
and human association) and has [its own] problems (i. e., explaining the states 
that pertain to its essence one after the other)." 17 

We then have a seemingly independent science the subject of which is 
human association or culture; the problems of which are the essential states 
of culture; the method is that of strict demonstration; and the end is that 
it be used as a rule to distinguish the true and the veracious from the false 
and the spurious in historical reports. To which philosophic science or group 
of sciences does this science belong, and in what way could it be characterized 
as a firm and principal part of philosophy ? 

That it does not belong to the logical or the mathematical sciences, needs 
little argument. Logic is defined by ibn Khaldun as "the science which 
makes the mind immune to error in seizing upon unknown problems [or 
questions] through matters already realized and known. Its advantage is in 
distinguishing error from correctness in the essential and accidental concept 
and judgments, which he who contemplates aims at in order that he may 
understand the verification of truth in generated [things], negatively and 
positively." 18 Logic is an organon of thought and a propaedeutical science 
making rules used in the contemplation of all generated things, and in 

"" 1B Q. I, 57-58. 
" Q.I, 61:7-19. 
18 Q. Ill, 87:5-9. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

ascertaining the sound definitions of their essences and accidents. Since the 
subject and problems of the science of culture are said to belong to generated 
things, it will have to use the rules devised by the logical arts, but it is not 
itself concerned with the problems of how to achieve sound abstractions or 
how to distinguish them from those unsound. 

It is only necessary to add here, first, that ibn Khaldun accepted, without 
reservation, Aristotelian logic as found in the logical writings of Aristotle 
(with the addition of Porphyry's Isagoge) and the commentaries of al-Farabi, 
ibn Sina, and ibn Rushd. Thus, logic for him deals with mental forms abstracted 
from things and useful in the knowledge of the essences and the "truths" of 
things. Its central aim is demonstration or "the syllogism producing cer- 
tainty," and "the identity of the definition and [the thing] defined," i.e., 
the subjects dealt with in the Posterior Analytics or "The Book of Demon- 
stration." 19 Ibn Khaldun doubts the validity of the attempts of Muslim 
dialectical theologians (Mutakallimun) who concentrate on purely formal syl- 
logism and forego the fruits of the works of the ancients in the field of material 
logic. 20 Secondly, ibn Khaldun repeatedly emphasizes that the science of 
culture must be a demonstrative science in the sense specified here, to the 
exclusion of dialectical, rhetorical, and poetic arguments which are based on 
commonly known and commonly accepted premises rather than on self- 
evident, necessary, and essential premises, or premises that are the conclusions 
of syllogisms based on such premises, as required by posterioristic logic. 

As to the mathematical sciences, they are concerned with measurements 
or quantities, either theoretically, such as the study of pure numbers, or 
practically as applied arts. In the latter case, they are useful in the study of 
culture, since they acquaint us with the mathematical properties of things, 
such as the stars, which exercise an influence on culture, and form the bases 
of many of the crafts which are an important aspect of cultural life. 21 But 
although the science of culture makes use of the conclusions of the mathematical 
sciences and is concerned with quantity as one of the categories of all generated 
things, its subject is not quantity as such, but the nature and causes of a 
specific generated thing which is culture. 

This leaves us with natural sciences and metaphysics, or the sciences of natu- 
ral and divine existents. Since the study of generated things, their natures, their 
states, and all that is engendered in them, 22 is the specific subject of natural 
science or natural philosophy, the new science of that specific generated thing 
which is culture seems to form a part of natural philosophy and to belong 
to it by virtue of its subject. This statement must now be amplified by giving 
answers to: (a) why does the new science of culture deserve to be a natural 

19 Q. Ill, 108-12. 
80 Q. Ill, 112-16. 

21 Cf. Q. Ill, 87-88, 93-108. 

22 Cf. above p. 893. 

science and counted among the natural sciences, and (b) how does ibn Khaldun 
establish it as a firm and principal part of natural philosophy ? 23 

Natural science is defined by ibn Khaldun as follows: 

"Then [after logic], the contemplation among them [i.e., the philosophers] 
turns either to: [a] the sensibles, viz., bodies of the elements, and those 
generated from them (viz., minerals, plants, and animals), celestial bodies, 
and natural motions; or the soul from which motions emerge, etc. This art 
is named 'natural science,' and it is the second of these (philosophic) sciences. 
Or [b] the contemplation turns to the matters that are beyond nature." 24 

This is explained further in the second and more elaborate definition sup- 
plied by ibn Khaldun in his own way: , 

"[Natural science] is the science which inquires about the body with respect 
to what adheres to it, viz., motion and rest. Thus, it contemplates the heavenly 
and elemental bodies, and what is begotten from them (man, animals, plants, 
and minerals) ; what is generated inside the earth (springs, earthquakes), in 
the atmosphere (clouds, vapours, thunder, lightning, and thunderbolts), etc. ; 
and the principle of motion in bodies, i.e., the soul in its various species in 
man, animals, and plants." 25 

Then he mentions the standard works on natural science. The physical parts 
of the Aristotelian corpus, which have been followed, explained, and 
commented on by Muslim authors, the most wellknown and reliable of these 
being ibn Sina in the corresponding parts of his three major works (Shifa\ 
Najdt, and Ishardt), and ibn Rushd in his summaries of, and commentaries 
on, Aristotle's works on physical sciences ; with the difference that ibn Sina 
seems to disagree with Aristotle on many problems of natural science, while 
ibn Rushd remains in close agreement with him. 26 

These statements point to a conception of the character and scope of natural 
science, and the order of its parts, which is not ibn Khaldim's own, but one 
which was elaborated by ibn Sina and ibn Rushd on the basis of a tradition 
initiated in Muslim philosophy by al-Farabi, and which has a firm foundation 
in Aristotle's own writings on nature. Following the scheme suggested by 
Aristotle, e.g., in the opening chapter of Meteorology, 27 these philosophers 
included within natural science or natural philosophy the works beginning with 
the Physics and ending with the De Anima and the Parva Naturalia, and ar- 
ranged their objects, order, and rank, as follows: (1) The general or first prin- 
ciples of all natural existents or of all that is constituted by nature, or "the first 

23 See above, p. 890. 

24 Q. Ill, 87:9-15. 

25 Q. Ill, 116:12-17. 

26 Q. Ill, 116-17. This judgment is based on ibn Sina's own statements and the 
accusations levelled against him by ibn Rushd. 

27 Meteorologica I, i. 338a 20-39a 9. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

causes of nature and all natural motion" (Physics); (2) the simple or primary . 
parts of the world, or "the stars ordered in the motion of the heavens" (On 
the Heaven and the World) ; (3) the motion of the natural elements, or their 
generation and corruption, alteration, and growth (On Generation and Corrup- 
tion) ; and (4) the accidents and affections common to the elements (Meteoro- 
logy). Then follows the study of particular existents that are generated and 
corrupted; (5) the minerals which are the simplest and closest to the elements 
(On Minerals); (6) plants (On Plants); (7) animals (The Parts of Animals, 
etc.); and (8) the general principles of the soul and its parts (On the Soul), 
followed by the particular powers of the soul and the accidents existing in 
plants and animals by virtue of their possessing soul (Parva Naturalia).™ 

According to this scheme, the science of the soul, which is the form of 
animal and plant bodies, falls within the scope of the science of nature; and 
the science of the intellect, which is one of the faculties of the soul, falls 
within the scope of the science of the soul. This raises important problems as 
to the connection of nature to soul, and of soul to intellect; and the study of 
these connections certainly did not mean, nor did it lead to, the reduction of 
one to the other. For the scheme was not merely a deductive one by which 
the more complex is deduced from the more simple or the particular from 
the general, but a methodological plan of investigation beginning with the 
general and simple and leading to the particular and complex, recognizing 
their substantial heterogeneity, and using observation, enumeration, and 
induction, to a greater extent than, and in conjunction with, syllogistic 
reasoning. Furthermore, the study of soul and intellect leads the investigator 
to matters that are beyond nature, and that could no more be, strictly speak- 
ing, considered within the scope of a natural investigation; but in this ease, 
these matters cannot claim the advantages enjoyed by natural investigation 
which are solidly based on human experience and perception. One could then 
perhaps speak with ibn Rushd of the possibility of delimiting the investigation 
of soul and intellect to what corresponds most to the manner of investigation 
conducted, and, thus, arrive at explanations similar in character to those given 
by natural science— taking this to be more fitting to the purpose of Aristotle. 29 
But to grant the difficulties raised by this scheme does not alter the fact 
that both for Aristotle and the Muslim philosophers mentioned above, the 

28 Ibid., al-Farabi, Falsafah Aristutalis (The Philosophy of Aristotle), MS 
Istanbul, Aya Sofia, No. 4833, fols. 34b ff.; ibn Sina, "al-Nafs," Skifd' II vi' 
"Psychologie d'Ibn Sina (Avicenne) d'apres son ceuvre AS-Mfa,'" ed. JanBakos! 
Prague, L'Academie Tchecoslovaque des Sciences, 1956, pp. 7-8 (where he defends 
changing the order with respect to the soul and to treating it before plants and 
animals); al-Najat, 2nd printing, Cairo, 1357/1938, Part II; 'Uyun al-Hikmah 
(Fontes Sapientiae), ed. Abdurrahman Badawi (Memorial Avicenne V),' Cairo 
Institute Francais d'Archeologie Orientate, 1954, pp. 16-46; ibn Rushd, Kitab 
al-Alhar al-'Ulwiyyah, Hyderabad, Dairatul-Maarif, 1365/1945, pp. 2-5; "al-Nafs " 
op. cit., pp. 1-5. 

29 "al-Nafs," op. cit., p. 3. 

Ibn Khaldun 

inclusion of the study of soul and intellect within the general science of nature 
is legitimate. Consequently, the study of man and of all that concerns man 
is considered an integral part of the study of nature or of natural science. 
This does not hold true only for his body in so far as it shares common pro- 
perties with all natural bodies, for the properties of generation and corruption 
which he shares with all composite things, and for the faculties of his soul 
which he shares with plants and other animals, but also for his specific differen- 
tiae as a rational being: his sociability and his association with others and 
co-operation with them in the development of the arts; his appetites and 
desires; his purposeful, organized social activity; his practical and theoretical 
intellect; and his ability to comprehend things through visions, dreams, and 
prophecy, and to use what he comprehends in ordering his political life. All 
such matters are dealt with in the science of the soul. 30 

Human association or culture, as ibn Khaldun conceived it, is a natural 
property of man as a rational being. He intended to investigate its modes 
or states, the various accidents that occur in it, and its generation and corrup- 
tion; and to develop this investigation into a full-fledged inquiry or science. 
Since the basis of man's sociability, and its primary manifestations, can 
legitimately fall within the scope of natural science, the elaboration of this 
natural property of man, and the investigation of the various aspects of social 
organization to which it leads man, can also legitimately belong to natural 
science and be counted as one of the natural sciences. 

Whether the new science will in fact prove well-fitted to be considered a 
natural science, will of course depend on whether it will remain loyal to the 
method of investigation followed in the natural sciences. Ibn Khaldun was 
aware of the fact that the subject he intended to investigate had been studied 
in contexts other than natural science, notably in the Muslim legal sciences 
and in the practical philosophic sciences. Thus, even if he had insisted on a 
science of human association or culture which had to be a part of philosophy 
or wisdom, he could have chosen to study it as a practical science. The reason 
for not choosing this alternative will be discussed in a subsequent chapter. 31 
It is sufficient in the present context to insist that what he sought was a 
natural science of human association. He examined the works of Plato and 
Aristotle, and of Muslim thinkers, and found 32 that they had not elaborated 
such a science before. Thus he set out to make good this deficiency in the 
natural sciences. But if he is to succeed in his effort, he must show unequi- 
vocally that the new science is indeed being firmly established on the founda- 
tion of natural philosophy. 

30 Cf. the references given in note 42. 

31 Below, Chap. XLIX. 

32 To his surprise, for he expected to find such a science elaborated by them; 
and only they could have elaborated it. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

The "History" was originally divided by ibn Khaldun into an "Introduc- 
tion" (Muqaddimah) and three Books. The "Introduction" deals with the 
problem of history in general, Book One contains the new science of culture, 
Book Two contains the history of the Arabs and other peoples (except the 
Berbers) down to ibn Khaldun's own time, and Book Three contains the 
history of the Berbers in western Islam. 33 

Muqaddimah is a technical term meaning "premise." It can be generally 
denned as that upon which what follows depends and which does not itself 
depend upon that which follows. 34 It can be a general discussion or explanation 
introducing a subject, a book, or a science, the emphasis here being upon 
what needs to precede these rather than that upon which they strictly depend. 
In this sense the "Introduction" precedes the three Books and is a useful 
discussion clarifying the problems that are to follow. But this "Introduction" 
together with Book One came also to be known as the Mtiqaddimah, i.e., 
as an introduction to the last two Books, or the historical account proper. 
This is a usage which is closer to the technical definition of the word, since, 
as ibn Khaldun explains, the writing of a correct historical account depends 
upon a prior understanding of the science of culture. 

The proper technical definition of muqaddimah, however, which is the 
specific definition used by logicians in the study of syllogism, induction, and 
analogy, is "that upon which the soundness of the proof depends, without 
an intermediary" or "a proposition made a part of syllogism or an argument." 35 
Such a premise should be veracious and properly related to the question or 
problem. It is of two kinds: (a) definitive (such as being primary, based on 
observation or experience, or on multiple authoritative reports, or being 
the conclusion of a syllogism based on such premises) and (b) based on opinion 
(generally known or accepted notions, etc.). 38 These can be made the premises 
of a single syllogism or argument, or of a whole science. In this latter case, 
they are named the "premise(s) of the science" and are defined as those 
upon which the setting out upon the science depends, and upon which its 
problems depend. 37 Apart from the general usages mentioned above, ibn 
Khaldun uses muqaddimah in this specific "logical" sense, 38 and the first 
section of Book One, which treats "human culture in general," is made up 
of six such premises. Since the new science "depends" upon the character of 
these premises, we must examine them in detail. 

33 Q. II, 16. 

34 Al-Tahanawi, Kashshaf Istilahat al-Funun (A Dictionary of Technical Terms), 
Eds. M. Wajih et at., Calcutta, Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1853-62, pp. 1215-21 

33 Ibid., p. 1216 :4ff. <Cf. Q. I, 308:7-8, 345:20). 

36 Ibid., pp. 1216:20-1217:2. 

37 Ibid., p. 1217 :5ff. 

38 Cf. Q. I, 71-78. 

Ibn Khaldun 

1. Association is necessary for man. — Ibn Khaldun presents this premise or 
proposition as being the same as what the wise men express when they say 
that "man is 'political' by nature, i.e., he cannot dispense with association, 
which in their technical usage is the 'poUs 1 ; and this is the meaning of culture." 39 
It is significant, however, that ibn Khaldun substitutes, here at the outset, 
"necessary" for "by nature" ; and his explanation of this first premise indicates 
that this substitution was deliberate on his part. For, the way he grounds 
the need for association in human nature is by explaining that, while the 
"animal natures" of human beings are the same as those of the rest of the 
animals (in that like them they cannot exist except through nourishment and 
self-defence), they are inferior to some animals in that the ability of a single 
human being cannot possibly be equal to meeting his needs for nourishment 
and self-defence. Therefore, man associates with others and develops the arts 
and tools, and the social organizations, necessary for nourishing and defending 
himself, not because his specifically "human nature" is essentially superior 
to the rest of the animals, or because he needs these arts and tools and organiza- 
tions to satisfy his specifically human needs, but because his natural con- 
stitution is deficient for conducting a solitary fife, and because without associat- 
ing with others he remains helpless and unable even to exist. 40 

Thus, ibn Khaldun, while purporting simply to "explain" what the philo- 
sophers meant by "man is political by nature," in fact concentrates on those 
traits of man's animal nature which render association a necessary condition 
for the very life and continued existence of man. Nevertheless, he emphasizes 
that this premise and its explanation as he presents them are also based on 
the conclusions of the investigation of animal and human natures conducted 
by the philosophers and confirmed by the investigation of the organs of the 
human body conducted by Galen — more specifically, that the "demonstra- 
tion" of this premise was presented by the philosophers, 41 referring to the 
appropriate passages of De Anima and the commentaries on them. 42 On the 
surface, ibn Khaldun's only objection is to the attempt of the philosophers 
to "add" a rational proof of prophecy to their demonstration of the political 
nature of man, while in fact he seems also to object to the widening of the 
scope of the proposition in such a manner as to state that association is 
necessary for man's well-being in addition to its being necessary to his existence. 
What he seems to indicate is that the study of human nature within the scope 
of natural science cannot demonstrate this proposition in this wider sense; 
therefore, the science of culture must restrict itself to accepting the proposition 

39 Q.I, 68:14-16. 

40 Q. I, 69-72. 

41 Q.I, 68:14-16, 70:11-12, 72:3 and 7. 

42 Cf. Q. II, 368-70, where the same argument is present in connection with 
the practical intellect, with a similar reference to the philosophers. Aristotle, De 
Anima, III, 4-7; ibn Sina, Nafs, pp. 198ff.; Najat, pp. 163-65; Kitab al-Isharat 
iv-al-Tanbihdt (Le livre de theoremes et des avertissements), ed. J. Forget, Leyde, 
E. J. Brill, 1892, pp. 134-37; l Uyun, pp. 40-46; ibn Rushd, Nafs, pp. 69-72. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

in its narrower sense, susceptible to demonstration within natural science, 
only. In other words, according to him, the study of culture should be a 
sociological one without ethical extensions. 

2. Distribution of culture on earth.— This premise simply recounts what 
has already been explained by the wise men who have contemplated the states 
of the world relative to the shape of the earth, the generation of animals 
and of the human species, and the inhabited parts of the earth; it is a 
summary of the geography of the seven zones and the information available 
concerning the conditions prevailing in each." Here, ibn Khaldun restates 
the various conclusions demonstrated in such parts of natural philosophy as 
the investigation of the nature of elements, of generation and corruption, 
of minerals, and of localities of animals; 44 and completes them through 
such information as has been supplied by observation and authenticated 
multiple reports found in the works of astronomers, and, in particular, in 
the works of Greek and Muslim geographers like Ptolemy, al-Mas'udi, and 
al-Idrisi. 45 By calling these astronomers and geographers "wise men" or philo- 
sophers, he indicates that their investigations fall within the scope of natural 
philosophy. It is also in these works that the word 'umrdn, which ibn Khaldun 
used as a technical term indicating the subject of his new science, is most 
frequently encountered. 

3. Temperate and intemperate zones, and the influence of the atmosphere 
upon the colour of human beings and many of their states.— This premise is 
again based on the investigation of the nature of generated beings, and the 
nature of heat and cold and their influence upon the atmosphere and the 
animals generated in it, proving that the colour of human beings and many 
of their arts and modes of life are caused by atmospheric conditions. 46 The 
only specific authority he invokes here is ibn Sum's rajaz poem on medicine. 47 
He refutes the errors of genealogists which he attributes to their inattention 
to the natural basis of such matters as colours and other characteristic traits. 48 
Throughout, the emphasis is upon the natural (in contrast to the specifically 
human or the divine) basis of culture as a whole; for, in addition to relatively 
elementary things (such as colour and other bodily traits, and the manner 
of preparing food and housing), ibn Khaldun indicates the dependence of 
even the highly complex aspects of culture (such as the sciences, political 
authority, and whether there are prophets, religions, and divine Laws) upon 
the nature of the elements and their effects upon the atmosphere. 49 

4. Influence of the atmosphere upon the habits of character [akhlaq] of 

Q. I, 73-148. 

Q. I, 73, 75, 82-85, 88-89, 94-95. 
Q. I, 75, 82, 84-88, 92, 93, 97. 
16 Q.I, 48ff., 151, 153-54. 
Q. I, 153. 
Q. I, 151, 154. 
Q. I, 149-50, 153-54. 

human beings. — Ibn Khaldun indicates that the valid causal explanation of 
this premise has been established in the proper place in philosophy where 
gladness and sadness are explained as the expansion and contraction of the 
animal spirit, and are related to the more general premise establishing the 
effect of heat in expanding the air. 60 This completely natural explanation, 
founded on the properties of the elements, is made the basis of mirth, ex- 
citability, levity, etc. In contrast, the opinion of al-Mas'udi (copying Galen 
and al-Kindi), which attributes these habits of characters to the weakness 
or the power of the brain, is considered inconclusive and undemonstrated. 61 

5. Effects of the abundance and scarcity of food upon the bodies and habits 
of character of human beings. — The causal explanation of this premise is based 
on the investigation of the quantity of food and the moisture it contains in 
the various localities of animals ; their action in expanding and contracting, 
and in increasing and decreasing the moisture of the stomachs of all animals 
including human beings ; and the effect of this upon the coarseness or delicacy 
of bodies, and upon the habits of character of human beings, including their 
piety and religion. 52 This natural causal explanation is based on experience 
and confirmed by the students of agriculture. 53 

6. Classes of those who perceive the "unseen" (ghaib) among human beings 
by natural disposition or by exercise.™ — This premise is introduced in a discus- 
sion on prophecy and dream-vision which deals with (1) practical guidance 
as the aim of prophecy, and (2) the signs of prophetic mission : (a) the psycho- 
logical state at the time of revelation, (b) good character prior to embarking 
upon the prophetic mission, (c) the call to religion and worship, (d) noble 
pedigree, and (e) marvels and miracles. The difference between the dialectical 
theologians and the philosophers concerning how marvels and miracles take 
place and concerning their significance, is presented primarily in terms of 
whether they take place through the power of God or through the power of 
the prophet himself. The philosophers assert the latter on the basis that 
"the prophetic soul, among them, has essential properties from which these 
invasions [of nature] (khawdriq) emanate through his [i.e., the prophet's] 
power and the obedience of the elements to him in the generation [of these 
invasions of nature]." 55 

As distinct from this introduction, ibn Khaldun presents his own statement 
(qaul) in which he sets down "the interpretation of the true meaning (haqlqah) 
of prophecy as explained by men of verification (muhaqqiqun)," and mentions 
the real meaning of soothsaying, dream-vision, etc. The verified interpretation 

50 Q. I, 155-56. 

51 Q. I, 157. 

52 Q. I, 157-61, 165. 

53 Q. I, 164. 

54 Q. I, 165ff. The sections translated by D. B. Macdonald ( Tfie Religious Attitude 
and Life in Islam, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1909, pp. 43ff.) remain 
the most exact rendering of the Arabic text. 

55 Q.I, 170:8-9. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

which ibn Khaldun adopts as the basis for his explanation of the true meaning 
of these phenomena proves to be a summary recapitulation of the entire 
subject of natural science, i.e., the observable world ('Slam) and the observable 
effects of unseen powers; sensible bodies, the elements, the spheres, the gener- 
ates (minerals, plants, and animals ending in man), and the human soul and 
its powers. These powers are again arranged in an ascending order: (1) the 
active powers; (2) the apprehensive powers which include (a) external senses 
(b) internal senses, i.e., (i) common sense, (ii) imagination, (iii) estimation' 
(it) memory, and (v) the power of thought which the philosophers call the 
rational or calculative (natiqak) power. 

"They all ascend to the power of thought [intellect] the instrument of 
which is the middle hollow of the brain. It is the power by which take place 
the movement of deliberation and the turn toward intellection; the soul is 
moved by it [i.e., this power] constantly through the longing instituted in it 
[i.e., the soul] towards that [intellection], to deliver [itself] from the abyss 
of potency and preparedness which belongs to human [nature] and to come 
out into act in its intellection [with which] it makes itself like the Heavenly 
Spiritual Host and comes at the lowest rank of the Spiritualities when it 
apprehends without bodily instruments. Thus, it moves constantly and turns 
toward that [intellection]. It may pass over altogether from human [nature] 
and its form of spirituality to the angelic [nature] of the upper region, not 
by [any] acquiring [of something from outside], but by the original and primary 
natural disposition toward it which God has placed in it." 66 On the basis of 
the structure and nature of the observable world, and the structure and nature 
of the human soul, and on the basis of the natural powers inherent in the latter 
ibn Khaldun proceeds to classify and explain the various types of the activity 
of the soul in relation to the unseen world. 

Thus, ibn Khaldun's own explanation of the foundation and the true mean- 
mg of these phenomena can be seen to be indeed based on the explanations 
of the natural world, and of the nature and powers of the human soul, as 
presented by "most" philosophers. Like them, he considers all such activities 
to be grounded throughout in the natural properties of the human soul which 
in turn, is closely related to the human body and the world of generation, of 
the elements, of sensible bodies, and of their motion and rest." All other 
explanations are the "guesses and conjectures" of those who are not well 
grounded in these matters or who accept them from those who are not such, 
and are "not based on demonstration or verification." 58 

These, then, are the premises, and the only premises, of ibn Khaldun's 
new science of culture. Even a superficial examination of them reveals that 
5S Q. I, 176:9-18. Cf. Macdonald, op. cit., p. 57. 

57 Q. I, 181, 186-87, 190, 192-93. 

58 Q. I, 196, 203-04. 

Ibn Khaldun 

they are all conclusions of mquiries undertaken by other sciences which are 
all natural sciences. The new science of culture, therefore, does not make a 
clear, a first, or a true beginning; it is not a presuppositionless science. It 
presupposes not only all the natural sciences that have provided it with 
its premises, but also the validity of their principles, the soundness of their 
procedures and explanations, and the veracity of their judgments and con- 

The inquiry into the place of ibn Khaldun's new science of culture within 
the Muslim philosophic tradition thus indicates beyond reasonable doubt 
that (a) ibn Khaldun conceived of the new science as a philosophic science, 
and that by philosophy he understood the sciences originated by the Socratic 
school, and elaborated by Aristotle and his Muslim followers; (b) the new 
science falls within the general scope of traditional natural science or natural 
philosophy; and (c) more specially, all of its premises are drawn exclusively 
from the various natural sciences, and, thus, it is indeed firmly grounded in 
these sciences because it presupposes their conclusions, and builds itself on 
that firm foundation. 

Ibn Khaldun's science of culture was conceived by him as a contribution 
to the established philosophic sciences within a limited field. The grounds for 
this science, or its basic premises, were already established by traditional 
natural science or natural philosophy. No philosopher before him had used 
these premises to develop a science of human association or culture based 
exclusively on them. The Greek and Muslim philosophers, with whose works 
on practical philosophy ibn Khaldun was acquainted, invariably found it 
necessary to proceed by utilizing other premises which could not claim the 
same solidity and demonstrable character as the premises provided by natural 
philosophy. Therefore, the understanding of the specific character of ibn 
Khaldun's contribution requires an examination of the relation between his 
new science of culture and traditional Greek and Muslim political philosophy. 
This will be attempted in Chapter XLIX of this work. 


The following list contains ibn Khaldun's surviving works (cf. above, n. 1). For 
a more detailed bibliographj' - of editions, translations, and studies, cf. Walter 
J. Fischel, "Selected Bibliography" in F. Rosenthal's translation cited below, Vol. 
Ill, pp. 485-512. 

Kitab al-'Ibar (The History), ed. Nasr al-Htirlni, 7 Vols., Bulaq, 1284/1867; 
Muqaddimat Ibn Khaldun (Prolegomenes d'Ebn-Khaldoun), ed. E. M. Quatremere 
("Notice et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliotheque du Roi et autres biblio- 
theques, publies par l'lnstitut Imperial de France," t. 16-18, premieres parties; 
also "Tirage a part des . . ."), Paris, 1858. The three volumes correspond to the 
Bulaq ed., Vol. I ; The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, English tr. by Franz 
Rosenthal (Bollingen Series XLIII), 3 Vols., Pantheon, New York, 1958; Les 
proligomlnes d'Ibn Khaldoun, French tr. by M. de Slane, 3 Vols., Librairie Orien- 



A History of Muslim Philosophy 

taliste Paul Geuthner, Paris, 1934-38- al Tn'rif hi „a itj. »_,- 

al-Dln (Extracts from Fakhr al-Dln ZXLZ M \ ' L f ab j al - Muf .^sal fi Usui 
Editori Marroqul Tetuan^L ^f-' T^f, U ^ ?al} ' e± R Luciano R^bio, 
Question, on S^Z^li^,.^ * 

paration by Tanji. C| Uar al-Kutub, Cairo, edition in pre- 

Part 5. The Middle-Roade] 

Chapter XLVII 


Jl]"f°Tr?^ m ° St CUri ° US aSp6Cts ° f the Weste ™ study of Muslim 
intellectual hfe that with one or two exceptions practically no serious reseat 
has_ ever been made into the spiritual and intellectual treasures o^ Se 

53S=^C^t lis* 

™ <V*™*). '<** refuge after the seventh/thirteenth oenturv this 
.gnoranee has helped to strengthen the totaHy erroneous notion Z SanS 
into .complete decadence after the Mongol invasion. Just as a closer stadl 
of the Mushm world at large will show that in art, govern™ „t Sufll S 

lamy recently, a study of the Si'ah world will reveal that even in the science, 
nhdosophy, and gnosis the Muslims have, with one gap of a centurTana a 
half, con hnued to flourish up to the present century It will reveal ttaHtt 
as §afaw,d art is one of the high points of Muslim art, so is the tellee u" 
"feofSh^ m this period one of the apogees, of Muslim history, prtdu'ing 

u/o„Vrtai„~ of S^iwrS^ * I 1 ,?"™ ta ™ ^^ 

Shihab al-Dln Suhrawardi SaqtuF. W1Sd ° m ' "** t0 the cha P ter on 


The School of Ispahan 

sages like Sadr al-Din Shirazi, usually known as Mulla Sadra. Perhaps one day 
histories of philosophy will not have chapters on Islam which end abruptly 
with ibn Rushd or possibly ibn Khaldun but will trace the chain to the present 
century and end once and for all the dangerous illusion that the present-day 
Muslims are separated from their own tradition by centuries of intellectual 
"vacuum." Our aim in this chapter is hardly one of filling this lacuna ; rather it 
is to give some of the background and intellectual perspectives of Safawid 
Persia, where Twelve-Imam Shi'ism became for the first time a completely 
independent political and cultural entity, an entity which has dominated 
every phase of life in Persia ever since. 

The coming to power of the Safawids in Persia is one of the most fascinating 
chapters of Muslim history and marks one of the instances in which the 
influence of Sufism upon the social and political life of Islam is felt directly. 
Beginning as a Sufi brotherhood which traced its lineage as well as its name 
to the great saint Shaikh Safi al-Din Ardibili, 3 the Safawids soon developed 
into a well-organized political force which was to conquer the whole of Persia 
and to weld it into a political unity for the first time since the fall of the 
Sassanid Empire. The Sufi order continued under the spiritual direction of 
a series of descendants of Shaikh Safi, and its members in the ninth/fifteenth 
century adopted a twelve-sided red hat for which they became known as the 
qizil-hdsh (red heads). The order grew in power in the politically disorganized 
Persia of the ninth/fifteenth century and under Isma'il (892/1487-930/1523-24) 
succeeded in defeating the local rulers and unifying the whole of Persia. 

Shah Isma'il was crowned in Tabriz in 905/1499 marking the beginning 
of the reign of the Safawids which was to last over two centuries until in 
1133/1720 the Afghans conquered Persia, sacked the Safawid capital at 
Ispahan, and killed Shah Husain, the last of the Safawid rulers. During this 
period Persia, which until now had been partly Shl'ah and partly Sunni, 
wavering between these two orthodox perspectives of the Islamic revelation, 
became completely Twelve-Imam Shl'ah, and Shi'ism, which had until now 
remained a minority creed, found itself as the official religion of an empire 
and had to face political and social issues it had never been forced to face 
before. 4 

3 Shaikh Safi (647/1249-735/1334), one of the most important of Shi'ah Sufi 
saints, is still greatly respected by the Sufis; his tomb in Ardibil has remained 
until today an important place of pilgrimage. Being the disciple of Shaikh Zahid 
Gilani, he was already a significant figure in his own day as testified by the biogra- 
phical works like the Safwat al-Safd' by ibn Bazzaz, and Kashid al-Din Fadl Allah's 
letters to the saint and to the governor of Ardibil in his Munshaat-i Eashidi. See 
also, E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, Vol. IV, Cambridge University 
Press, Cambridge, 1924, Chap. II. 

4 For a history of the Safawid period, see E. G. Browne, op. cit., Vol. IV; L. Lock- 
hart, The Fall of the Safawid Dynasty and the Afghan Occupation of Persia, Cam- 
bridge University Press, Cambridge, 1958, and the traditional Persian sources of 
which some of the more important include the Safauxd al-Safa' by ibn Bazzaz, 



A History of Muslim Philosophy 

No longer molested by an external force and faced with a large number of 
practical social problems, Shi'ah theology, Kalam, which had always served 
as the walls of the citadel of the faith,* lost much of its earlier vigour while 
jurisprudence, Fiqh, having to face new situations, became highly developed. 
More important for our purpose is the fact that the predominantly Shi'ah 
culture of Persia prepared the background for the flourishing of the doctrines 
of ishrdqi gnosis (illuministic wisdom),* philosophy, and the sciences The 
efforts of the chain of sages after Khwajah Nasir al-Din Tusi, who had kept 
the study of these subjects alive, suddenly found the necessary environment 
for the development of this form of wisdom.' We have connected this wisdom 
symbolically with the school of Ispahan, which spread throughout Safawid 
Persia as well as in Iraq, Syria, and India with which the Persians had very 
close contacts. The centres of its life were not only Ispahan, the Safawid 
capital, but also other cities like Shiraz, Kashan, Qazwin, and Tabriz. Further- 
more, some of the most important figures like Shaikh Baha' al-Din Amili 
and Sayyid Ni'matullah Jaza'iri, who played a vital role in the establishment 
of Shi'ism in Persia, were Arabs from Amil near Damascus and Bahrain, two 
centres which had been preserving the Shi'ah tradition for centuries. 8 

The Shi'ahs have developed the Ja'fari school of Law named after the sixth 
Imam, Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, as well as theology (Kalam) and other traditional 
studies, namely, language, history, Hadith and commentary upon the Qur'an, 
jurisprudenc e (Fiqh), principles of jurisprudence (Usui)* theology, 1 " and 

AJisan ^-Tawarm by Hasan Baik Rumlu, Zubdat al-Tawarikh by Muhammad 
Mnhsm ibn AM al-Karlm, and the universal history Nasikh al-Tawarlkh by 
Mirza Taqi Sipihr. — y 

5 The purpose of theology is to protect the truths of a revelation against false 
reasoning; its role is, therefore, defensive. It is the shell which protects the inner 
spmtual life not that life itself. If there were no danger of rationalism and fake 
reasoning, there would be no need for theology. We, therefore, see theology coming 
into being with rationalistic philosophy, and where there is no tendency toward 
rationalism, there is no theology as this word is currently understood 

For a discussion of the meaning of ishrdqi wisdom, refer to the chapter on 
ftuhrawardi Maqtul. ^ 

\ T u He f.^ 011 , Why the P re ~?afawid sages of Persia like 'AH Turkah Ispahan! 
and ibn abi Jumhur as well as the Safawid authors themselves have been neglected 
in the Western world is that the quality of their wisdom is primarily gnostic 
(irjam) like that of Shaikh al-Akbar Muhyi al-Din ibn 'Arabi by whose doctrines 
they were all influenced; that like him they can be understood neither by the 
rationalistic philosophers nor by the mystics as they have come to be understood 
since the Renaissance. 

v 8 i t^ X! "^rf S ° me ° f these Arab m ' ah scholar s. see E. B. Browne, op. cit., 
vol. IV , (Jnap. VIII. 

• The science of Usui as an independent science has grown into monumental 
lh°™ Tt 0r ? y * m thG paSt feW centuriea reaching its height in the hands of 
Shaikh Murtada Ansari, the famous doctor of the Qajar period, who only a century 
a f* ^f** 7 ^ into a scien ce matching Kalam in its logical subtleties. 

Shi ah theology reached its height in the seventh/thirteenth century in the 
hands of men like Khwajah Nasir al-Din Tusi and 'AUamah-i Hilli. 


The School of Ispahan 

Hikmat, this last being a combination of gnosis, theosophy, and philosophy 
which forms the main subject of our present study. 


The form of wisdom which has survived until today in the Shi'ah world 
as Hikmat can neither be wholly identified with philosophy as currently under- 
stood in the West, nor with theosophy which has unfortunately become iden- 
tified in the English-speaking world with pseudo-spiritualist movements, nor 
with theology. 11 As developed in the Safawid period and continued to the 
present day, Hikmat consists of several threads knit together by the matrix 
of Shi'ism. The most important of these elements are the esoteric teachings 
of the Imams, especially as contained in the Nahj al-Baldghah by the first 
Imam 'Ali, the ishrdqi wisdom of Suhrawardi which contains in itself aspects 
of ancient Persian and Hermetic doctrines, the teachings of the earlier Sufis, 
especially the gnostic doctrines of ibn 'Arabi, and the heritage of the Greek 
philosophers. It is, therefore, not too surprising if many of the treatises on 
Hikmat begin with logic and end with ecstasy experienced in the catharsis 
(tajrld) and iUumination of the intellect. They contain as a necessary basis 
some preparation in logic which they share with the Peripatetics (Masha'iyun), 
but instead of remaining bound to the plane of reason they use this logic as 
a springboard for their flight into the heaven of gnosis. 

The group of sages who between the death of ibn Rushd, the so-called 
terminating point of Muslim philosophy, and the Safawids prepared the 
ground for the intellectual revival of the school of Ispahan are usually not 
much better known outside Persia than the Safawid sages themselves. 
They include a series of philosophers and scientists like Khwajah Nasir al-Din 
Tusi, better known in the Western world as a scientist than a philosopher and 
theologian, Qutb al-Din Razi, Mir Sayyid Sharif Jurjani, Jala! al-Din Daw- 
wani, and ibn Turkah Ispahani, 12 all of whom sought to reconstruct Muslim 
intellectual life through a gnostic interpretation of the writings of ibn Sina, 
Suhrawardi, and the Sufis, and who carried further the attempt already begun 
by al-Farabi, extended by ibn Sina in his Qur'anic commentaries, and carried 
a step further by Suhrawardi, to correlate faith (iman) with philosophy. 13 
The precursors of the Safawid sages include also a series of pure gnostics, 

11 See the chapter on Suhrawardi Maqtul. Generally, Hikmah in Arabic or 
Hikmat in Persian means wisdom in addition to the particular sense given to it 
as a divine science. 

12 For the series of commentators and expositors of ishrdqi wisdom, see the 
chapter on Suhrawardi Maqtul. 

13 It is unfortunate that in books treating of the relation between faith and 
reason in Islam like A. J. Arberry's Revelation and Reason in Islam, London, 
1957, most of these authors are not taken into serious consideration. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

both Shi'ah and Sunni, although this distinction is not essential in Sufism 
who spread the doctrines of ibn 'Arabi, the Andalusian sage and the f^ZS 
of gnostzc doctrines in Islam in the Eastern lands Jl^»£Zl££ 

Ala al-Daulah Sunmuu » 'Abd al-Rahman Jami," and two others who" are 

rSS t ^f ^ ^ gn ° StiC d ° CtrineS 0f ib » 'Arabi into 
the hj» ah world, ibn abi JumhQr and Mulla Haidar 'Ali Amfili » One must 
also menfcon another great spiritual leader, Maulana Jalal al- D fn R^f 
wW mfluence has extended throughout Persia during the past seven 0^ 


of SetS^T eV T thG r re nameS and W ° rks ° f a11 the ™P«rtant authors 
of the Safawid penod would in itself require a book because m nearly every 

fill r fT SCienC T e ^^ n ° tabIe fi S Ures arose d ™g tto period of grelt 
T a i?™^ 1011 onl y a few na ™*» ^e that of Zain al-Din ibn 'Ali ibn 
»£ ft- "• l 11/1505 -?f /1558) ' C ° mm °^ k — - ^e second tartyr 
Sf LH T Se ° f h " haVing been P Ut to death ^ the Ottomans the 
All ibn Abd al- All Amih known as Muhaqqiq-i Karaki (d 94^/1 ™*\ u, 

toes, the t»»i,k„, Muhammad Taqi (1003/1594-1070/1659), the author 
of Rauda, al-Mnlhqln, and his son Muhammad Baqir (1037/162^1110/S 
U» greatest of the theologians and seholal I J om ^eiTZ 

14 For an account of the doctrines of ibn 'Arabi, see T BnrckarHt /TV ^ r 
sagesse des prophetes Pari* iq**. i „ ■■, r * , - *»urckardt (Tr. , Za 

Matheson, Sh Muhammad A*™^ i ' i""?*"*™ to <^ ^««, tr. M. 

crecririce Aiim fa soufhme /ibn 'TrL, "J Se6 ^° C ° rbln ' ^"^nation 

«. -*■ ^^iLIMsss SfEaT' whioh ~- ta 

18S4/HI5 ' ' *"* '^ °'' D<, " ( » ft S *»»«. Dta'A *«*. Teheran, 

at-Nusila. London, 1928, the ^«Aao< al-Lama'at, and the JVogrf 

Shi'ah gnostic doctSes ^ "* am0ng the m ° st im P-tant sources of 

oll^^VS^S SZTk^ ^^ a** -*»«»- «™ the iWa, 

The School of Ispahan 

As for the hukamd', those who cultivated this particular form of wisdom 
which they called Hikmat, they include Sadr al-Din ghirazi, better known as 
Mulla Sadra, to whom a separate chapter has been devoted in the present 
work, Sayyid Ahmad 'Alawi, Mir Damad's son-in-law and the commentator 
of ibn Sina's Shifd', Mulla Muhammad Baqir Sabziwari (d. 1090/1669), the 
commentator of the Isharat and the metaphysics of the Shifd', and of the Dha- 
hhlrat al-Ma'dfi, Rajab 'Ali Tabrizi (d. 1080 */1670), a thinker with nominalist 
tendencies and the author of Risdkh-i Ithbdt-i Wujvd, 'Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji 
(d. 1071/1661), a student of Mulla Sadra and author of some of the most 
important books on Hikmat in Persian like the Guhar Murdd, Sarmdyeh-i 
Imdn, and the Mashdriq al-Ilhdm, glosses upon the commentary of Khwajah 
Nasir al-Din Tiisi upon the Isharat, and a commentary upon Suhrawardi's 
Haydkil al-Nur, and Qadi Sa'id Qumi (1049/1640-1103 ?/1692), a gnostic and 
theologian, the author of the Arba'indt, Kilid-i Bihisht, and a commentary 
upon the Athulujlyya attributed to Aristotle but now known to be a para- 
phrasis of the Enneads of Plotinus. 

In addition to these authors, there are a few other major figures about 
whom we have chosen to speak somewhat more fully hoping that in this 
way we can depict the various aspects of the intellectual life of the Safawid 
period. These figures include Shaikh Baha' al-Din 'Amili, Mir Damad, 19 per- 
haps the central figure in the school of Ispahan, Mir abu al-Qasim Findiriski, 
Mulla Muhsin Faid Kashi, and the second Majlisi whom we have already 

If space had allowed, we would have also considered the purely Sufi writings 
like the commentary upon the Gulshan-i Rdz by Muhammad Lahiji, which 
is one of the best books on Sufism in Persian, and the works by the masters 
of other Sufi orders like the Tuhfih-t 'Abbdsi by the dhahabi shaikh, Shaikh 
Mu'adhdhin Khurasani. 

Shaikh Baha' al-Din 'Amili.— The most colourful figure of the Safawid 
period was without doubt Baha' al-Din 'Amili, better known as Shaikh-i 
Baha'i. 20 His father was the leader of the Shi'ah community of 'Amil and a 
student of Shahld-i Thani. After his teacher's death in 966/1559, he set out 
with his son towards Persia. Baha' al-Din, who was born in Baalbek in 953/ 
1546, was then only thirteen years old and well qualified to master the Persian 
language. In Persia he continued his studies in the religious sciences, poetry, 

the Tarikh-i 'Alam Ara-yi 'Abbdsi of Iskandar Baig Munshi, Teheran, 1334/1915; 
and of more recent composition the Raihanat al-Adab of Muhammad 'Ali Tabrizi, 
Sa'di Press, Teheran, 1331-33 Solar; the Qi ? as al-'Ulama' of Mirza Muhammad 
Tunikabuni, Islamiyyah Press, Teheran, 1313 Solar; Fihrist-i Kuivh-i Ihda'l-i 
Aqa-yi Mishkdt by M. B. Danish Pazhuh, University Press, Teheran, 1335/1916; 
see also H. Corbin, "Confession extatiques de Mir Damad" in the Melanges Louis 
Massignon, Institut Francais de Damas, Damas, 1956, pp. 331-78. 

19 See Corbin, op. cit., pp. 333 ff. 

20 His name should not in any way be connected with the heterodox Baha'i 
movement of the thirteenth/nineteenth century. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

and Hikmat and soon became the leading scholar of his day and the Shaikh 
al- Islam of Ispahan. Despite his nearness to the Court and necessary participa- 
tion in worldly life he was a gnostic and spent many of the last years of his 
life travelling with the dervishes and visiting various Sufi masters. He finally 
passed away in 1030/1622 while returning from the hajj. 21 

Shaikh Baha' al-Din was the leading theologian and jurist of his time and 
the leader of the 'ulama' of Ispahan. He was at the same time an outstanding 
Sufi, one of the best of the Safawid poets who revived the 'Iraqi style and 
wrote poetry in the tradition of Rumi and Hafi?, the leading architect of the 
Safawid period, whose masterpieces like the Shah mosque of Ispahan still 
stand among the summits of Muslim architecture, 22 and the greatest mathe- 
matician and astronomer of his period. 

In an age when the theologians, jurists, Hakims, natural historians, sophists 
logicians, and Sufis were well-marked groups, sometimes in external conflict 
with one another, Shaikh-i Baha'i was respected by all these groups, from the 
wandering dervishes, the qalandars, to the Court 'ulama' each of which con- 
sidered the Shaikh its own. His genius lay precisely in showing the nothingness 
of all sciences before divine gnosis, while at the same time having a mastery 
of each science. Yet each of Shaikh-i BahaTs writings has become a standard 
source of reference in its own field. Some of his important works include 
Jami'-t 'Abbasi on theology in Persian; Faiod'id al-Samadiyyah on Arabic 
grammar which is still in wide use; a treatise on algebra, the Khulasah fi 
aLHisab™ several treatises on astronomy including the Tashrih cd-Afldk- a 
treatise on the astrolabe, 'Urwat alWuthqa; general Qur'anic commentaries- 
many works on various aspects of the Shari'ah; the Kashkul, a collection of 
Arabic and Persian writings which ranks among the most famous Sufi works- 
and a series of mathnawls like Bread and Sweet, Cat and Mouse, Milk and 
Sugar, and the TM-Ndmeh. 24 

It is especially in the didactic poems, the mathnawls, that the particular 
genius of Shaikh-i Baha'i for expressing sublime truth in simple language and 
in witty ane cdotes becomes manifest. In these poems his spirit is very similar 

21 ^or an account of the life and works of Shaikh-i Baha'i, see Tarlkh-i 'Alam 
Ara-yvAbbam pp. 155-57; also Naficy, Ahwal wa A&ar-i FarsU Shaikh-i BahaH, 
fcqbal Press, Teheran, 1316/1898. ~~ ~~ ' 

" Shaikh-i Baha'i is said to have built a bath-house named Gulkhan which had 
always hot water without any fuel being used in it. When it was pulled down, people 
discovered a single candle burning under the water tank. 

23 This book on mathematics which helped greatly in reviving the study of the 
mathematical sciences in Persia was a standard text-book for centuries and has 

SL7TS U ^° n 8eVei f 1 timeS and translated into ^rsian by Muhammad 
Amm Najafi Hijazi Qumi and into German by G. H. F. Nesselmann who published 
the text and the translation in Berlin in 1843. Shaikh-i Baha'i revived the study 
oi mathematics and astronomy in Persia after one hundred years of neglect, having 
himself learnt these sciences in Herat. S 

a 2 *- FOr E f- liSt °1^ nearly l6net y works attributed to him, see his Kulliyat-i 
Asn ar-i tarsi, ed. M. Tauhidipur, Mahmudi Press, Teheran, 1336/1917, pp. 42-45. 


The School of Ispahan 

to that of Maulana Jalal al-Din Rumi whom he follows in spirit as well as in 
form. In the long poem the Cat and the Mouse in which the cat symbolizes 
exoteric and formal knowledge and the mouse esotericism, the theme is the 
danger of hypocrisy which the exoteric view always faces and the necessity in 
the religious and social structure for esoteric knowledge. Shaikh-i Baha'i also 
emphasizes throughout the work the supremacy of intellectual intuition 
over discursive knowledge. As an example we mention below the story of 
a Mu'tazilite and a Sufi who appears in the guise of a madman named 

During the reign of one of the Caliphs, a Mu'tazilite was chosen as the 
Imam of a mosque. One day Buhlul entered the mosque with a brick hidden 
under his dress and joined the congregation after the prayers to listen to the 
Imam's sermon. The Imam in the Mu'tazilite fashion mentioned that Satan 
is not harmed in hell because he is made of fire and since a thing cannot harm 
its own kind, the fire of hell cannot harm him. Upon hearing this, Buhlul 
became irifuriated but held back his anger. The Imam continued his sermon 
by saying that both good and evil are by divine consent. Again Buhlul became 
angry but once again succeeded in remaining quiet. The Imam added that 
on the Day of Judgment man would be actually able to see God. Upon hearing 
this, Buhlul took out the brick from under his dress, threw it at the Imam 
breaking his head and ran away. The Caliph raging with fury was about to 
call for Buhlul when Buhlul himself walked into the palace and without any 
greetings sat at the head of the Court. The Caliph asked him with great anger 
as to why he had attacked the Imam. Buhlul answered by pleading to the 
Caliph to give him permission to explain how by his act he had done nothing 
discourteous, and when given the permission addressed the bleeding Imam 
and said that since according to his own words a thing cannot harm its own 
kind, a brick cannot harm the Imam's head since both are made of clay. 
Furthermore, he asked the Imam if he had felt any pain upon being hit on the 
head and if he could see the pain. Upon getting the reply that the Imam did 
not see the pain, Buhlul asked how could a man unable to see pain, a creation 
of God, see the Creator. Finally, Buhlul added that since all acts are done 
through divine consent, God must have given consent to his throwing the 
brick and so the Imam should not complain of an act to which God had 
consented. Upon hearing this, the Imam, the symbol of rationalism, had to 
remain silent before Buhlul, the symbol of intellectual intuition. 26 

The writings of Shaikh-i Baha'i are also replete with passages about the 
nothingness of all human knowledge as against divine gnosis. For example, in 
the poem Nan wa Halwah (Bread and Sweet) he says: 

Formal science is nothing but altercation ; 

It results in neither intoxication 26 nor contemplation. 

' Ibid., pp. 164-66. 

1 Intoxication symbolizes 

and spiritual union. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

It continually brings congelation to man's nature ; 

What's more, the Maulana 27 does not believe in it. 

If someone tells thee that of thy life, 

There remains with certainty but a week, 

Thou in this one week will busy thyself 

With which science, O accomplished man! 

There is no science but the science of love, 28 

The rest is the deception of the wretched Satan. 

There is no science but the Qur'anic commentary and Hadith, 

The rest is the deception of the perverse Satan. 

The mysteries will never become known to thee, 

If thou hast for student a hundred Fakhr-i Razi. 29 

All who do not love the face of the beautiful 

The saddle and the rein are appropriate for them. 30 

That is, he who does not have love for the Friend, 

Bring for him the saddle and the headstall. 31 

He who has not fallen in love with his beautiful Face, 

Erase his name from the tablet of humanity. 

A breast that is empty of the love of the Beautiful, 

Is an old leather bag full of bones. 

A breast if devoid of the Beloved, 

Is not a breast but an old chest. 

A heart which is empty of the love of that Beauty, 

Count it as a stone with which the Devil cleans himself. 

These sciences, these forms and imaginings, 

Are the excrements of Satan upon that stone. 

If thou allowest other than the science of love in thy heart, 

Thou wilt be giving Satan the stone to clean himself. 

Be ashamed of thyself, O ! villain, 

That thou carriest the Devil's cleaning stone in thy pocket. 

Wash the tablet of the heart from the Devil's excrement ; 

O ! teacher, give also the lesson of love. 

How long wilt thou teach the wisdom of the Greeks ? 

Learn also the wisdom of those who have faith. 32 

27 Maulana Jalai al-Dln Rumi is commonly referred to as Maulawi in Persian. 
This verse refers to Maulawi's well-known rejection of rationalism in favour of 
gnosis (The leg of the rationelist is a wooden leg . . .). 

28 Love symbolizes gnosis or the science which comes through contemplation 
and illumination rather than analysis and discursive thought. 

29 Reference is to the famous theologian Imam Fakhr al-Din Razi. 

30 This verse is in Arabic and is repeated immediately with only a little change 
in Persian. 

31 That is, he is like a beast of burden. 

3S Reference is to the wisdom of the Sufis as constrasted with that of the Greeks, 
the Hikmat-i Imani and the Hikmat-i Yunani. 


The School of Ispahan 

How long with this jurisprudence and baseless theology, 
Wilt thou empty thy brain ? ! exuberant one, 
Thy life is spent in discussing conjugation and syntax, 
Learn also a few words about the principles of love. 
Illuminate thy heart with resplendent lights, 
How long wilt thou lick the bowl of Avicenna ? 
The Lord of the universe, the King of this world and the next 33 
Called the left-over of the believer a remedy, ! grieved one, 
But the left-over of Aristotle and Avicenna, 
When has the illuminated Prophet called it a remedy ? 
Go rip thy breast in a hundred places, 
And clear thy heart of all these stains. 34 
Not only does Shaikh-i Baha'i suggest that man should not busy himself 
solely with formal science and that he should seek to reach the divine gnosis 
hidden in the revelation, but he also reminds man that he should not become 
so accustomed to this world as to forget his original home. It has been a 
constant theme of the gnostics throughout the ages that the spiritual man 
being a stranger in this world must take the perilous journey to return to 
his original abode. 35 In the same Nan wa HoUwah, while commenting upon 
the Prophet's saying: "The love of the country comes from faith," he writes: 36 
"This country is not Egypt, Iraq, or Syria, 
It is a city which has no name. 
Since all these countries belong to this world, 
The noble man will never praise them. 
The love of this world is the source of all evil, 
And from evil comes the loss of faith. 
Happy is the person who, through divine guidance, 
Is led in the direction of that nameless city. 
O! son, thou art a stranger in these countries; 
How wretched art thou to have become accustomed to it ! 
Thou hast remained so long in the city of the body, 
That thou hast completely forgotten thy own country. 
Turn away from the body and gladden thy soul, 
And remember thy original home. 


33 The Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace). 

34 Shaikh-i Baha'i, Kulliyat . . ., pp. 18-19. 

35 This theme appears in certain Hermetic writings, the Acts of Thomas, the 
Grail story, as well as in Islam in the visionary narratives of ibn Sina and many 
of Suhrawardi's gnostic tracts like Qissah Ghurbat al-Gharbiyyah; see H. Corbin, 
Avicinneet le rScit visionnaire, InstitutFranco-Iranien,Teheran,andA.Maisonneuve, 
Paris, 1952-54, Vol.1, Chap. 3, and Suhrawardi, Oeuvres philosophiques et mystiques, 
Vol. II, Institut Franco-Iranien, Teheran, and A. Maisonneuve, Paris, 1954, Prol<5- 
gomene by H. Corbin. 

36 Shaikh-i Baha'i, Kulliyat . . ., p. 23. 


. A History of Muslim Philosophy 

How long wilt thou, ! victorious falcon, 
Remain away from the sphere of the spirit ? 
It is a shame for thee, 0! artful one, 
To shed thy feathers in this ruin. 
How long, O! hoopoe of the city of Saba, 37 
Wilt thou remain in estrangement with feet tied % 
Seek to untie the cords from thy feet, 
And fly where 'there is no space.' " 38 
Shaikh-i Baha'i was one of those rare falcons who, while outwardly in the 
midst of this world, had flown to the "land of nowhere." He did not write in 
the technical sense so much about Hikmat as Mir Damad or Mulla Muhsin Paid 
did, but he reached such a degree of spiritual realization above and beyond 
theoretical formulations that all of his writings are spiritually precious. Even 
his compositions in the various religious and natural sciences bear the perfume 
of his spirituality. His writings present a balance between the exoteric and 
the esoteric, the metaphysical and the cosmological, which serves as an 
example of what the relation between the various aspects of a tradition might 
be and could be when the principial integrating influence of gnosis is present. 
Mir DamM.—Qne of the most influential figures of the Safawid school was 
Muhammad Baqir Damad, better known as Mir Damad. He and his pupil, 
Mulla Sadra, must be considered to be the greatest Hakims of the period' 
Being the grandson of Muhaqqiq-i Karaki and descendant of a distinguished 
Shi'ah family, Mir Damad received the best education possible in all branches 
of religious learning. His most famous teacher was Shaikh Husain ibn 'Abd 
al-Samad 'Amili, the father of Shaikh-i Baha'i, who later on became his most 
intimate friend and companion at the Safawid Court. 39 Mir Damad soon 
became a leading authority on Kalam, Hikmat, Fiqh and even in the occult 
and natural sciences. 40 In Ispahan he attracted numerous students to him- 
self. His most famous disciples were Mulla Sadra, Sayyid Ahmad 'Alawi, the 
commentator of the Shifd', Mulla Khalil Qazwmi whose commentary upon 
the Usui al-Kdfi is very well known in Persia, and Qutb al-Dln Ashkiwari, 
the author of a universal sacred history and several philosophical and gnostic 

37 A city in the south of Arabia with which the name of the Queen of Sheba is 
associated. — 

38 La makan, meaning beyond the world of cosmic manifestation. Suhrawardi 
rofers to this point which is the top of the cosmic mountain Qaf, as na kuja abad; 
see Suhrawardi, "Le bruissement de l'aile de Gabriel," tr. H. Corbin and P Kraus 
Journal Asiatique, Juillet-Sept., 1935, pp. 41-42. 

° 9 Fo f™ accoun * of the life and writings of Mir Damad, see M. Tunikabuni 
Qisas al-Ulama, pp. 333-35; Raihanat al-Adab, Vol. IV, pp. 117-21- Baudat 
al-Jannat, pp. 114-16; Tartkh-i <Alam Ara-yi 'Abbasi, pp. 146-47; Danish Pazhuh, 
f £ A ' Z ' *' P ' 152 and the good Production to his life and thought 

by a. Corbin, Confessions extatiques de Mir Damad," pp. 340ff. 

" It is said that he had much interest in the life of the bees and had accu- 
mulated a good deal of observational data about them. 

The School of Ispahan 

treatises. 41 Mir Damad more than anyone else was responsible for the revivi- 
fication of ibn Sina's philosophy and ishrdqi wisdom within the context of 
Shi'ism and for laying the ground for the monumental work of Mulla Sadra. 
Mir Damad did much to revive what he referred to as the Yamani wisdom 
(falsafih-i Yamani), the wisdom of the prophets, in contrast to the more 
rationalistic philosophy of the Greeks. 42 He has been entitled the Third 
Teacher (Mu'allim-i Thdlith) after Aristotle and Farabi. 

The writings of Mir Damad, both in Arabic and Persian, many of which 
are incomplete, are written in a very difficult style which adds to the diffi- 
culty of understanding their contents. These writings include several treatises 
on Kalam; works on Fiqh like Shari' al-Najat; al-Ufuq al-MvMn on Being, 
time, and eternity; al-Sirdt al-Mustaqlm on the relation between the created 
and the eternal; Taqmrn al-Iman on Being, creation, and God's knowledge; 
several other major treatises on Hikmat including the Qabasat,* 3 Taqdisat, 
Jadhatmt, and Sidrat al~Munldka? i several Qur'anic commentaries like 
Amdnat-i Ildhi; commentaries upon the Istihsar of Khwajah Nasir al-Din Tusi 
and the metaphysics of the Shifd'; the Khalsat al-Malakut on gnosis; 45 and 
a collection of poems in Persian and Arabic including the Mashdriq al- 
Anwdr, written under the pen name, Ishrdq. After a life-time spent in writing, 
teaching, and reading the Qur'an to which he was much devoted, and having 
prepared the ground for the whole group of sages, especially Mulla Sadra, 
who were to carry his ideas to their ultimate perfection, Mir Damad died on 
the way between Najaf and Karbala in Iraq in 1041/1631. 

The thought of Mir Damad is marked by two features which distinguish 
him from the other Hakims of the period, the first the organization of his 
treatises and the second the notion of eternal creation, huduth-i dahri, which 
is the central and ever-recurring theme in his writings. As for the organization 
of his works, like the Qabasdt and Taqdisat, it differs for the most part from 

41 For an account of these and other students of Mir Damad, see H. Corbin, 
op. cit., pp. 345-46. 

43 The "Yamani philosophy" means the wisdom revealed by God to man through 
the prophets and through illumination; Yaman (Yemen) symbolizes the right or 
oriental (mashriqi) side of the valley in which Moses heard the message of God. 
It is, therefore, the source of divine illumination in contrast to the Occident, the 
source of Peripatetic philosophy, the Occident symbolizing darkness and being on 
the plane of philosophy, i.e., rationalism. See H. Corbin, "Le recit d'initiation et 
l'hermetisme en Iran," Eranos Jahrbuch, Vol. XVII, 1949, pp. 136-37. For the 
symbols of the Orient and Occident in ishraqi wisdom see the chapter on Suhra- 
wardi Maqtul. 

43 This major work has been commented upon several times. One of its most 
curious commentaries is that of Muhammad ibn 'Ali Rida ibn Aqajani, one of 
the students of Mulla Sadra ; it runs over a thousand pages. 

44 These last two works are among the important books on Hikmat in Persian, 
the others being in Arabic. Some manuscripts attribute Sidrat al-Muntaha to Mir 
Damad's student, Sayyid Ahmad 'Alawi, although in the Jadhawat Mir Damad 
refers to this work as being his own. In any case it is a product of his school. 

45 For a translation and discussion of this work, see H. Corbin, op. cit., pp. 350n\ 

. A History of Muslim Philosophy 

that of the traditional Muslim books on philosophy and Hikmat which usually 
begin with logic and then proceed to natural philosophy (tabtlyyat) , mathe- 
matics (riyadiyydt), and theology (ilahiyyat).** For example, in the Qahasat 
the ten chapters of the book concern the various meanings of creation and 
the division of Being, kinds of anteriority, multiplicity, appeal to the Qur'an 
and the Hadith, nature, time, and motion, criticism of logic, divine omnipotence, 
intellectual substances, chain of Being, and finally predestination. 47 

The second marked feature of Mir Damad's exposition of Hikmat concerns 
the notion of time. It is well known that the question whether the world is 
created (hadith) or eternal (qadlm) has been one of the major points of 
dispute between the philosophers and theologians in both Islam and Chris- 
tianity as well as among the Greeks." Mir Damad seeks a solution to this 
question by dividing reality into three categories: zaman or time, dahr, and 
sarmad; the latter two are kinds of eternity. This division is ontological and 
not just logical or theoretical. 49 

The divine essence or ipseity (dhat) is above all distinctions and qualities; 
yet it is also the source of the divine names and attributes which are both 
one with the essence and yet distinct from it. This immutable relation between 
the essence and the attributes, which cannot be changed from either side, the 
attributes being a necessary determination (ta'ayyun) of the essence to Itself 
by Itself, Mir Damad called sarmad. It is an eternity in the absolute sense, 
above all contingencies. The names and attributes, whieh are the same as 
the archetypes, Platonic ideas, or the lords of the species (rabb al-nau') as 
the Ishraqis call them, in turn generate the world of change. They are the 
immutable intelligences of this world, and each species in this world is a 
theurgy (tilism) for its archetype. The relation between the immutable arche- 
types and the world of change is like the reflection of the moon in a stream 
of water in which the image of the moon remains unchanged while the sub- 
stance in which it is reflected, i.e., water, flows on continually. This 
relation between the immutable and the changing, Mir Damad calls dahr. 
Finally, the relation between one change and another is called time (zaman), 
in the sense of quantity and measure of change as Aristotle had already 
described it. 80 

Since this world was brought into being through the intermediate world of 

4S See for example the Shifa' or Najat of ibn Sina and the Kitab al-Mu l tabar 
of abu al-Barakat al-Baghdadi. In some cases as in the Danish Nameh-i 'Ala'i 
of ibnSma and many later ishraqi writings, the book begins with metaphysics 
and then proceeds to natural philosophy in the manner of Plato rather than 

47 See Mir Damad, Qahasat, Shaikh MahmGd BurGjirdi, Shiraz, 1315/1897. 
8 . F <>r a general discussion of this question, see L. Gardet, La penste reliqieuse 
dAvzcenne J Vrin, Paris, 1951, pp. 38ff., and A. K. Coomaraswamy, Time and 
Atermty, Artibus Asiae, Ascona, 1947, Chap. IV. 

49 Mir Damad, Qahasat, pp. 1-10. 

50 Ibid., p. 7. 


The School of Ispahan 

the archetypes, its creation is ctahri not zamdni, i.e., the world was not created 
in a time which existed before the world came into being but with respect 
to a dahr which stands above the world. 51 The creation of this world is, there- 
fore, huduth-i dahri, ibdd', and ikklira" and not ^ttduth-i zamdni, wad', and 
lakmn. Time has a reality in its own plane of being, but in the world of dahr, 
the world of the archetypes, time does not even exist. Moreover, the changing 
physical world ('alam-i jismani) depends for its existence upon non-existence 
('adam) in the world of the archetypes. While it exists in time (zaman), it 
is non-existent in dahr and has no share in the angelic mode of being, proper 
to the world of dahr, of which it is no more than a coagulation. Likewise, the 
world of dahr, of the archetypes, is non-existent in the divine essence, in the 
world of sarmad (the eternal world). In the divine essence (dhat) there is 
neither dahr nor zaman, neither archetype nor body; God is alone in His 
majesty. Ba Yet, dahr exists on its own level and zaman on its own. Sarmad 
is the cause of dahr and dahr the cause of zaman, 63 so that ultimately the 
divine essence is the cause of all things, while in its essence nothing may 
even be said to exist. 

The Jadhawat, the contents of which we will now briefly survey, is one of 
the works in which Mir Damad presents the complete cycle of his metaphysical 
ideas combined as usual with the Qur'anic text, the Hadith, and his own verse. 64 
In the first judhwah or particle of fire, of which the word jadhawat is the plural, 
Mir Damad divides the "book of divine existence," of the chain of Being, 
into two parts, one in which there is an effusion or theophany (tajalli) away 
from the divine essence and the other in which there is a return to the origin : 

51 Mir Damad argues that time itself is the measure of the movement of the 
heavens and a condition for the existence of this world so that one cannot speak 
of a time before the creation of the world; Qahasat, p. 20. 

52 For a comparison and affinity of these ideas with those of ibn 'Arabi, see La 
sagesse des prophets, Chapters I and II. 

53 In presenting this view of creation, Mir Damad draws heavily on earlier 
writings from Plato's Timaeus and the so-called Theology of Aristotle to the Shifa' 
of ibn Sina and the Kitab al-Mu'tabar of abu al-Barakat. In each case he also 
criticizes the view of the previous writers who considered the world either 
to be eternal in itself or created in time from outside. Mir Damad's Risalah fi 
MaMhab Aristatalis is devoted to a discussion of the difference between the views 
of Plato and Aristotle on the question of time and eternity drawing on Farabi's 
Kitab Jam 1 bain al-Ra'yain. Mir Damad's treatise is published on the margin of 
the Qabasdt, pp. 140-57. 

84 The Jadhaxvat {Bombay, lithographed edition, 1302/1884, pp. 203) begins with 
a poem in praise of 'Ali ibn abi Talib the first lines of which are as follows : 

O herald of the nation and the soul of the Prophet, 

The ring of thy knowledge surrounds the ears of the intelligences. 

O thou in whom the book of existence terminates, 

To whom the account or creation refers 

The glorified treasure of the revelation, 

Thou art the holy interpreter of its secrets. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

the first extending from the divine essence to prime matter or hyle and the 
other from the hyle back to the origin of all existence. Moreover, each chain 
is divided into a longitudinal (fSii) order and a latitudinal f'ardi) order 55 The 
longtudinal order of the chain of effusion includes five essential degrees: — 

1. The degree of pure intelligences, the victorial lights (animr-i qdhirah) 
the first member of which is the universal intellect f'aql-i kull) i e 
the first light to issue forth from the Light of lights (nur al-anwarj 

2. The degree of heavenly souls (nufiis-i falakiyyah), the governing lights 
(anwar-% mudabbirah), the first member of which governing the first 
heaven is called the universal soul (nafs-i kull). 

3. The degree of the natural souls (nufiis-i muntabi'ah) and the archetypes 
of the heavens, the planets, the four natures, the elements, and com- 
pounds. 66 

4. The degree of bodily form (surat-i jismlyyah), i.e., the Aristotelian 
form, which is an extended substance and is of one species. 

5. The degrees of hyle, from the matter of the highest heaven to that of 
the world of generation and corruption. 57 

As for the longitudinal order of the chain of return to the divine essence 
it too includes five stages : — 

1. The degree of the absolute body (jism-i mutlaq) and bodies comprising 
the elements and the heavens. 

2. The degree of composed bodies which come into being from the combina- 
tion of the elements and have a species of their own, e.g., minerals. 

3. The degree of plants possessing the vegetative soul. 

4. The degree of animals possessing the animal soul. 58 

5. The degree of men possessing the intellectual soul which is of the same 
substance as the intelligences of the descending chain, above both of 
which there is nothing but the Truth (Haqq) Itself. 59 

Each of these degrees, both in the descending and the ascending chains 
have their several members that constitute the latitudinal extension of each 

The world of the intelligences (mujarradat) is called the world of the in- 
visible (ghfl ib), or command (amr), or malakut, or intellect ('aql), or life 

« Suhrawardi also divides the angelic world into the longitudinal and the 
latitudinal orders, a division the influence of which upon Mir Damad is easy to 
discern. On the question of angelology the Safawid sages remained faithful to the 
jgrosp scheme combined with that of ibn Sina. See the chapter on Suhrawardi 

" The natures refer to the warm and cold, wet and dry, and the elements to the 
four traditional ones, fire, air, water, and earth. 

" Mir Damad and Mulla Sadra, unlike Aristotle and his followers, posit some 
form ot matter in every degree of formal manifestation. 

58 Mir Damad mentions that there are 1,400 species of animals, 800 belonging to 
sea and 600 to land. & 

59 Jadhawdt, pp. 2-13. 

The School of Ispahan 

(haydt), or light (nur), while the world of bodies is called the world of creation 
(Malq), vision (shahddat), or dominion (mulk), or death (maut), or darkness 
(zulmat). Man's nature is composed of these two worlds in such a way that 
he contains the whole, world in himself; he is the microcosm as the world is 
the macrocosm. His intellect is like the sun, his soul like the moon, and his body 
like the earth ; and as is the case with the heavens, man can also have an inner 
eclipse, i.e., the earth of his body can prevent the light of the sun of the 
intellect to shine upon the moon of the soul. The purpose of the two chains 
of descent and ascent is to bring into being man, who contains both the 
chains within himself and who can, therefore, ascend to heaven as well as 
descend to the lowest depths of existence. 

The macrocosm is a conscious being whose head is the highest heaven, 
whose heart is the sun, and whose other organs correspond with those of man. 
It is compared symbolically to a man whose head is pointed towards the 
North Pole, the right side towards the west, the face towards heaven, the 
feet towards the south, and the left side towards the east. 

The totality of these degrees, the macrocosm and the microcosm together, 
is the book of God, in which each being is a word or rather a letter. 80 These 
words and letters are written by the divine Pen (qalam) which symbolizes 
the intellect. The Pen writes the truth of things upon the human soul which 
is called the ispahbad fight (nur 4 ispahbadi). More specifically, the Pen 
writes the truth of things upon the soul of the prophet who in turn "writes" 
the knowledge of things upon the soul of man and, through the intelligences, 
upon the pages of creation and existence. The intelligences are not limited to 
the nine heavens, but as the Ishraqis have asserted, in number they equal 
the fixed stars in addition to the heavens and extend all the way down to the 
heaven of the moon. The intelligence of this heaven is called "the giver of 
forms" (wahib al-suwar) or the active intellect ('aql-i fa"dl) which gives 
being as well as form to the sublunary region. 61 

The heaven of the fixed stars is the meeting place of the corporeal and 
intellectual lights, the boundary between formal and formless manifestation. 
This heaven has its own soul and intelligence but, in addition, each star in it 
is also a possessor of an intelligence and a soul proper to itself. As to the 
other heavens, they also have their general intelligence and soul as well as 
particular intelligences and souls all of which cast their iUuminations upon 
the sublunary region. The intelligence of the heaven of the sun is Gabriel 
whose grace is spread throughout the heavens and the earth. 

Having considered the chain of Being, Mir Damad turns to a discussion of 
unity (tauhid) starting from "there is no divinity but God" (la ilaha ilia- 
Allah) to "there is no being but He and no truth but He" (la maujudun 
ilia Huwa wa la haqqun ilia Huwa).* 2 For the real gnostic every being is 

60 Ibid., pp. 13-18. 

61 Ibid., pp. 18-28. 

62 Ibid., pp. 28 ff. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

nothing but Being. Mir Damad compares the relation of Being to existence 
with that of the number one to other numbers, which runs through all numbers 
without entering into them, which relation neither the soul nor the intellect 
can understand, yet its effect is felt everywhere. 83 The Divine Being by His 
essential unity encompasses all things; His unity is before, with, and after 
both dahr and zaman. His unity before dahr is the unity of His command; with 
dahr, the unity of the universal intellect ; after dahr, the unity of the universal 
soul, unity with time (zaman), and unity of the elements and compounds. 

As for the generation of multiplicity from unity, Mir Damad rejects the 
Peripatetic view of authors like ibn Sina who consider that the first intellect 
brings multiplicity into being by the three relationships possible for it: neces- 
sity by something other than itself, the intellection of the divine essence, and 
the intellection of its own essence. For Mir Damad just as the number of 
intelligences is unlimited so are their possible relationships beyond the number 
determined by the Peripatetics. 6 * Likewise, the intelligences have a great 
many illuminations and effusions beyond the categories set forth by the 
Aristotelians, one intelligence being victorial (qdhir) and the other passive and 
receptive (maqhur). Each heaven as well as each body, simple or composed, 
has its archetype (rabb al-nau') in the world of divine command ('alam-i amr) 
which is changeless and is to its species what the soul of man is to his body. 

Between the world of intelligences and the physical world there is an inter- 
mediary world, the so-called eighth climate which Mir Damad, following the 
ancient Ishraqi sages calls hurqalya,™ the world of separated imagination 
(khayal-i munfasil), or the purgatory (barzakh). Human imagination is itself 
regarded as a gulf extending from this vast cosmic ocean. This world contains 
the forms or Platonic ideas of all physical bodies without being in a specific 
place. The mythical cities of Jabulqa and Jabulsa 68 are located in it, and 
bodily resurrection on the Last Day, miracles, and the passage of great 
distances in a short time, all take place in this intermediary world which is 
a bridge to be crossed before reaching the spiritual world. 

In order to cross this bridge and make the return journey through the 
ascending chain, man must become familiar with the divine names, especially 
the Great Name (ism-i a'zam) which contains all the others. All the prophets 

«» In discussing tauhid, Mir Damad draws not only on ibn Sina and Suhrawardi 
but even on the Nahj al-BalZghah of the first Shi'ah Imam, the Sahifih-i Sajjadlyyah 
of the fourth Imam, and other Shi'ah sources. He regards ' Pythagoras as the 
Imam of the Semitic sages (Hukama'-i Sami) and one who received his wisdom 
through revelation. This view going back to Pbilo is held among the great majority 
ot the Muslim sages and historians of philosophy. 

64 Jadhawat, pp. 38ff. 

« 5 This intermediary region plays an important role in the thought of Mulla 
^adm and even more in the writings of Shaikh Ahmad Ahsa'i, the founder of the 
bflaikhis who still survive in Kerman. 

SB These are two famous mythical cities through which initiates pass in their 
journeys and they appear often in initiatic narratives in Persian. 

The School of Ispahan 

and saints derive their being from these names, and the creatures are their 
effects. The spiritual world is called the world of invocation ('alam-i tasblh) 
because the realities of that world are the divine names. Man, therefore, can 
regain that world only by invoking the names and becoming unified with 
them. 67 The gnostic who has achieved this end sees the whole world through 
the intelligible world ; in fact, he sees nothing outside the Divine. As long as 
man lives in this world, no matter how much he has separated his soul from 
his body and achieved catharsis (tajrid), he is still in time and space. It is 
only when he dies and leaves the world of darkness for that of light that he 
becomes completely free from the conditions of terrestrial existence, of zaman, 
and it is only then that he enters into eternity (dahr). 

The inner constitution of man forms a bridge between the worlds of time 
and eternity, the sensible and the intelligible. Man possesses four degrees of 
perception: sensation (ihsds), imagination (takhayyid), apprehension (tawah- 
hum), and intellection (ta'aqqul), the degrees which stretch between the visible 
world and the invisible world. The soul (nafs) is the link between these two 
worlds; on the one hand, it abstracts perceptions from the sensible world and, 
on the other, receives the illumination of the intelligible world which it clothes 
in the forms of the sensible, i.e., words and names which are the external 
dress of truths. 68 

Mir Damad echoes earlier Sufi and Pythagorean doctrines in assigning a 
particular significance to the numerical symbolism of letters. He writes: "The 
world of letters corresponds to the world of numbers, and the world of numbers 
to the world of Being, and the proportion of the world of letters to the 
proportion of the world of numbers and the proportion of the world of num- 
bers to the combinations and mixtures of the world of Being." 69 He calls 
the science of the properties of letters and their combination divine medicine 
and says that letters have come into being from the conjunction of planets 
with the signs of the Zodiac, for example alif has come into being by Mars 
crossing the first degree of Aries. He establishes correspondence between the 
twenty-eight letters of the Arabic alphabet and the equal number of the 
stations of the moon and works out this correspondence in great detail. 70 

8 ' Jadhawat, pp. 54-63. 

68 Ibid., p. 100. 

64 Ibid., p. 103. In the same work, p. 92, the last part of which is wholly devoted 
to the important traditional Muslim science of jafr, he considers numbers to be the 
principles of beings, the illumination from the intelligible world, the "Michael of 
the degree of existence" and adds that if a person acquires all the knowledge of 
numbers he will gain complete knowledge of the physical world. This view is very 
close to that of Pythagoras and his school. See Aristotle, Metaphysica, Book V. 
In both cases number is not just the quantity of modern mathematics, but a 
"personality," an entity which possesses a definite qualitative aspect. For the notion 
of the Pythagoreans, see H. Keyser, Akroasis, Verlag Gert Hatje, Stuttgart, 1947. 

70 For a profound study of this subject as developed before Mir Damad, see 
S. T. Burckhardt, La cW spiritudles de Vastrologie mimdmane d'aprea Ibn 'Arobi, 
Editions Traditionelles, Paris, 1950. 



A History of Muslim Philosophy 

In establishing a relation between numbers, letters of the alphabet, and 
the heavens, Mir Damad, like many sages before him, seeks to point out the 
common ground between the book of revelation and the book of nature, as well 
as the relation between the sensible world and the intelligible world. In his 
writings it is quite clear that both metaphysics and cosmology are to be found 
in the esoteric (batini) meanings of the Qur'an and that through the under- 
standing of the symbolism of letters and numbers and the sapiential exegeses 
of sacred books one can come to know not only the Qur'an which corresponds 
to the world of creation, the Qur'an-i tadmni, but also the Qur'an which is the 
archetype of all manifestation, the Qur'an-i takmni, i.e., the logos or the 
reality of Muhammad (haqiqat al-Muhammadlyyah). 

Mir Abu al-Qasim Findiriski.— The third of the famous triumvirate of sages 
from Ispahan, 71 Mir Findiriski, spent much of his life travelling outside Persia, 
especially in India where he was highly respected by most of the princes and 
where he made the acquaintance of many Hindu sages. He became well 
acquainted with Hinduism and even wrote a commentary upon the Persian 
translation of the Toga Vasistha by Nizam al-Din Panipati, which is one of 
the major works on Hinduism in Persian. In the Muslim sciences he was a 
master in philosophy (Hikmat), mathematics, and medicine, and taught the 
Shifa" and the Qanun of ibn Sina in Ispahan where he died in 1050/1640. 

The most interesting aspect of Mir Findiriski 's life is his complete detach- 
ment, even externally, from the world. As a Sufi, in spite of his having ad- 
vanced very far upon the Path and having reached the state of pure contem- 
plation and illumination, he mingled with the common people and wore the 
coarsest wool, and yet he was one of the most respected men in the Safawid 
Court. 72 His manner resembled that of the Hindu Yogis with whom he had had 
so much contact. He was a real man among men and one of the most striking 
Sufis of his time. While completely detached from the world and even from 
purely formal learning, he composed several important treatises including one 
on motion (al-fiaraJcah), another on the arts and sciences in society (sand'iyyah), 
the book on Yoga already mentioned, Usui al-Fusvl on Hindu wisdom, and 
a history of the Safawids. Moreover, he, like Mir Damad and Shaikh-i Baha'i, 
was an accomplished poet showing the development in him of the gnostic 
element which is the only possible common ground between traditional philo- 

71 The other two are Shaikh-i Baha'i and Mir Damad who were close friends of 
Mir Findiriski and shared with him the respect and honour of the Safawid Court. 
For an account of the life of Mir Findiriski whose complete name'is Mir abu al- 
Qasim ibn Mirza Baik Husain Findiriski, see Raihanat al-Adab, Vol. Ill, pn 
231-32. ^ 

72 The story is told of him in most biographies that one day Shah 'Abbas, trying 
to admonish him for mixing with the common people, said, "I hear some of the 
leading scholars and sages have been attending cock-fights in the bazaar." Mir 
Findirski, knowing that the remark was meant for him, replied, "Your majesty, 
rest assured, I was present but I saw none of the 'vlama' there." See Eiyad al- 
'Arifin, p. 276. 

The School of Ispahan 

sophy and poetry. The most famous of his poems is a qasldah, based upon 
that of Nasir ibn Khusrau Dehlawi, which is one of the best known poems 
on Hikmat in Persian. It has been taught and commented upon many times 
since its composition, the more famous commentaries on it being those of 
Muhammad Salih Khalkhali and Hakim 'Abbas Darabi. Because of the 
importance of this poem in summarizing some of the basic elements of Hikmat 
as it was revived during the Safawid period, English translation of some of 
the verses is given below. 

"Heaven with these stars is clear, pleasing, and beautiful ; 

Whatever is there above has below it a form. 73 

The form below, if by the ladder of gnosis 

Is trodden upward, becomes the same as its principle. 

No outward apprehension can understand this saying, 

Whether it be that of an abu Nasr or of an abu 'Ali Sina. 7 * 

If life were not an accident under this ancient heaven, 

These bodies would be forever alive and erect. 

But whatever is an accident must first have a substance ; 

The intellect is our loquacious witness to this claim. 

If one can obtain these qualities 76 from the sun, 

The sun is itself light and shines upon all things while keeping its unity. 

The intellectual form which is endless and immortal 

With or without all things is a totality and unity. 

Of the life of the universe, I say that if thou knowest the relation of the 

soul and the body, 
In the heart of every particle, then life becomes both evident and hidden. 
God has placed seven heavens above us, 

And seven others on the other side of the world in the life to come. 
Thou canst reach heaven by their means, 

Be true and walk the straight path for there is no falsehood there. 
He who worships the world, the door of heaven will never open to him, 
The doors will not open even if he stands before them. 
He who is annihilated in Him finds eternal life ; 
He who is busy with himself, his affair is doubtless a failure. 
The jewel is hidden in the mysteries of the ancient sages, 
Only he who is wise can discover the meaning of these mysteries. 
Pass beyond these words for they are forsaken by the people of the world ; 
Find the Truth and tread its path, if thou art righteous. 

73 The text of this qasldah and the commentary by Khalkhali have been 
published in Teheran, lithographed edition, 1325/1907. This verse means the 
celestial archetypes of Platonic ideas and their earthly reflections or shadows. 

74 Reference is to Farabi and ibn Sina, the two early masters of mashd'i philosophy 
in Islam. 

75 "Qualities" means multiplicity of forms which become evident only when 
light shines upon them. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Whatever is outside thy essence will do thee no good, 

Make thyself harmonious whether it be today or tomorrow. 

The Being that is pure has no limit or description; 

It is neither outside of us, nor with us, nor without us. 

A beautiful thought is only beneficial when combined with virtuous deeds ; 

A thought with virtuous action is competent and beautiful. 

To talk of goodness is not like doing good, 

The name of sweetmeat on the tongue is not like sweetmeat itself 

In this world and the next, with the world and without it, 

We can say all these of Him, yet He is above all that. 

The intellect is a ship, passion a whirlpool, and knowledge the mast, 

God is the shore and the whole cosmos the sea. 

The shore is reached with certainty; the sea of the possible has become 

the necessary. . . . 7 * 
Howgood it would be if the sages before us had said everything completely 
So that the opposition of those who are not complete" would be removed! 
Desire keeps the soul in bondage in this world ; 
While thou hast desire, thy feet are tied. 
Each wish in this world is followed by another wish; 
The wish must be sought beyond which there is no other." 
Mir Findiriski occupied himself not only with metaphysics and the theoretical 
sciences but also with the sciences of society, of traditional society in which the 
social structure itself has a direct bearing on metaphysical principles. In his 
treatise on arts and sciences (mna'tyyah)™ he distinguishes twelve voca- 
tions or arts and sciences in society depending upon the subject with which 
each one deals. The subjects of the arts and sciences he enumerates are as 
iol ows: (i) The subject is universal and the discussion concerns knowledge as 
well as action from both of which there comes only good; (ii) the subject is 
universal and the discussion concerns both knowledge and action from both of 
which there comes evil ; (iii) the subject is universal and the discussion concerns 
knowledge from which there comes only good ; (iv) the subject is universal and 
the discussion concerns knowledge from which there comes only evil- (v) the 
subject is universal and the discussion concerns action from which there comes 
only good; and <vi) the subject is universal and the discussion concerns action 
from which there comes evil. To this list Mir Findiriski adds a series of arts 
and sciences the subject of which is no longer universal. These include (vii) 
thos e arts a nd sciences the subject of which is particular and the discussion 

RpL T / G - *f / MUSli - n ) r^ 0VS followin g ib » Stoa d^ide reality into the Necessary 

jsk sss isr being (mumun *~w and *■ ^ ^ 

TW <£!! argl ! ments !? egin ^ ecause each side insiders only one aspect of the Truth. 
But those who are "complete," that is, have a vision of the totality of the Tmth 
never enter into arguments. ' 

78 Mir Findiriski, Risahh-i Sana'lyyah, Sa'adat Press, Teheran, 1317 Solar. 


The School of Ispahan 

concerns knowledge and action from which there comes only good; (viii) the 
subject is particular and the discussion concerns knowledge and action from 
which there comes evil; (ix) the subject is particular and the discussion con- 
cerns only knowledge from which there comes only good ; (x) the subject is 
particular and the discussion concerns only knowledge from which there comes 
evil; (xi) the subject is particular and the discussion concerns only action 
from which there comes only good; and, finally (xii), the subject is particular 
and the discussion concerns only action from which there comes evil. 79 

The first of the twelve categories listed above concerns the prophets, saints, 
and sages, the most exalted of men, who maintain the order of the universe, 
there being a prophet for each cycle of history and each people. The second 
concerns those who oppose the prophets and sages, those who are the deniers 
of truth, and the sophists and agnostics who are the lowest of men. The fourth 
class is the opposite of the first, i.e., that of the enemies of Ifikmat and theo- 
logy, of those who, seeing differences in the expressions of the various sages, 
have denied the one truth which lies behind this diversity. 80 The fifth category 
is that of the jurists (fuqaha') who cultivate the practical sciences, and the 
sixth is that of their opposites like Mazdak, 81 who concern themselves only 
with their bodies and remain oblivious of the order of both this world and the 

The last six categories concern particular arts and sciences. The first of 
them, or the seventh in our list, is that of professionals in particular arts, like 
physicians, engineers, and astronomers ; and the eighth is that of their opposites, 
i.e., those who misuse each of these arts. The ninth category is like the parti- 
cular sense of an organ of the body and concerns people who have only a 
theoretical knowledge of various arts and sciences, like music, medicine, or 
the principles of jurisprudence. The tenth is its opposite and in it are included 
those who make a false claim to know these sciences theoretically. The eleventh 
category concerns arts and sciences which are limited to a particular subject, 
and the twelfth its opposite which concerns the rejection of these same arts 
and sciences. 

In this classification we can already see the hierarchic structure of society 
at the top of which stand the prophets and saints in whom knowledge and 
action are combined, below them the hukamd' and the theologians, then those 
concerned with practical arts and the particular sciences. The nobility of a 
vocation in each case depends upon the nobility of the subject-matter treated. 

7 » Ibid., pp. 13-54. 

80 Mir Findiriski adds that all the Greek philosophers before Aristotle were 
saying the same thing in different languages and that if one is instructed in the 
secrets (rumuz) of Hikmat, Hindu wisdom, and the Theology of Aristotle (i.e., 
the Enneads of Plotinus), all the different expressions will have the same meaning 
for him. 

81 Mir Findiriski mentions Mazdak as the person who by a false interpretation 
of the Avesta preached the communization of women and property. He also men- 
tions the Carmathians (Qardmitah) as belonging to this group. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Likewise, the degree of degradation of a person or group depends upon the 
truth that has been denied; the higher the degree of a truth, the baser is he 
who denies it. The categories outlined by Mir Findiriski reflect the hierarchy 
within Hikmat itself. In both cases the religious sciences like theology are 
considered to stand above the natural sciences, Hikmat above theology, and 
the wisdom of the prophets and saints above all the other categories. 

Mulla Muhsin Faid-i #«.— Muhammad ibn Shah Murtada ibn Shah Mah- 
mud, better known as Mulla Muhsin or Faid-i Kashi, is the most famous of 
the sages of the generation following that of Mir Damad, Shaikh-i Baha'i 
and Mir Findiriski. Born in Kashan in 1007/1600, he spent some years at 
Qum and then came to Shiraz to complete his studies with Mulla Sadra 
whose daughter he later married. He also studied with Mir Damad* and 
Shaikh-i Baha'i but was more closely associated with Mulla Sadra. Just as 
Mir Damad produced a series of outstanding students, the best known of 
whom was Mulla Sadra— the greatest of the Safawid Hakims to whom we 
shall turn in a separate chapter— Mulla Sadra in turn produced a galaxy of 
famous students among whom Faid-i Kashi and Mulla 'Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji, 
both his sons-in-law, are the most important. 82 

The genius of Mulla Sadra consisted largely in unifying the three perspec- 
tives of formal revelation or shar', purification of the soul leading to illumina- 
tion (kashf), and rational demonstration (falsafah) into a single universal 
vision in which all these paths lead to the same truth. All of his followers 
sought to preserve the unity established by their master, each emphasizing 
some one aspect of it. For example, later sages like Qadi Sa'Id Qumi, Mulla 'Ali 
Nuri, and Aqa 'Ali Zunuzi sought to correlate revelation and reason, and 
Aqa Muhammad Bidabadi and Aqa Muhammad Rida' Qumshihi, reason and 
gnosis. Others continued the path trodden by Mulla Sadra himself and 
emphasized the harmony of all the three paths mentioned above. Mulla Muhsin 
Faid and Haji Mulla Hadi Sabziwari, the most famous Persian thinker of 
the last century, belong to this last group. Mulla Muhsin's writings display 
a harmonious integration of reason, revelation, and gnosis with lesser emphasis 
upon reason. He succeeded perhaps more than anyone else in the Shl'ah world 
to bring about a complete harmony between Law and spiritual life, SharVak 
and Tartqah. 

In many ways Mulla Muhsin may be considered to be a Shl'ah Ghazali, not 
only because of his preoccupation with harmonizing the exoteric and the 
esoteric views, but also for his treatment of a spiritualized ethics which forms 

■* Mulla-i Lahiji, known as Fayyad, author of several important treatises on 
Htkmat in Persian and Arabic mentioned already, deserves a separate study as 
one of the major figures of this period. There are brief accounts of him in E G 
Browne, op .cjt. Vol. IV, pp. 408-09, 435. See also the introduction by Sayyid 
Muhammad Mishkat to the new edition of al-Mahajjat al-Baida\ Vol. I, Islamivvah 
Press, Teheran, 1380 Solar, in which the significance of Faid's doctrines and in 
particular the present work on ethics is discussed. 


The School of Ispahan 

the requirement for following the Path. He even re-wrote the well-known 
Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din of Ghazali under the name of al-Mahajjat al-Baida" fi 
Ihya' al-Ihya", substituting traditions (Hadith) from the Shi'ah sources for 
those from the Sunni ones given by Ghazali. 83 

The writings of Mulla Muhsin both in Arabic and Persian are too numerous 
to mention here. 84 Among the more famous, one may name Haqq al-Yaqln; 
'Ain al-Yaqln, and 'Ilm al-Yaqln on Hikmat; al-Safi, al-Wafi, and al- Shaft 
on Qur'anic commentary and Hadith; Mafdtih al-Sharayi' on jurisprudence; 
al-Tathir on ethics; Jala' al-'Uyun, Zad al-Sdlik, and Kalimat-i Maknunah 
on Sufism ; numerous treatises on the esoteric meaning of acts of worship, on 
various invocations, on particular sciences including astronomy ; selections from 
and commentaries on the Rasa'il of the Ikhwan al-Safa, the Futukdt al- 
Makklyyah of ibn 'Arabi, and the Mathnawi of Jalal al-Din Rumi; and a large 
collection of poems consisting mostly of verses of Sufi inspiration. His works 
both in poetry and prose have remained very popular in Persia and his ethical 
and social teachings have attracted particular attention in the past decades. 

Mulla Muhsin's thought marks the final integration of Hikmat into ShTism. 
Hikmat in Persia had been moving in this direction for many centuries from 
the time of al-Farabi and ibn Sina. Suhrawardi Maqtul took the decisive step 
in regarding knowledge as personal illumination by the heavenly guide or 
"guardian angel." Mulla Sadra following him made the universal intellect the 
criterion of knowledge. Mulla Muhsin took a further step in this direction in 
identifying this intellect with the Shi'ah Imams, in whom the light of Muham- 
mad (al-nur al-Muhammadlyyah) is manifested and who are called the innocent 
(ma' sum) intellects. 85 Only by union with them, with the pure intellects, can 
one gain ultimate knowledge. 

One of the important treatises of Mulla Muhsin, in which gnosis, Hikmat, 
and Shar 1 are blended in characteristic fashion, is the Kalimat-i Maknunah 
written in a mixture of Arabic and Persian. 86 It treats of a complete cycle 
of theoretical gnosis so that its discussion gives a fair example of the totality 
of Mulla Muhsin's general perspective. 

The work begins by assuring the reader that there is no way of reaching 
the essence of the Truth because the Truth encompasses all things. Every- 
thing is Its manifestation, but only the elite (khaivdss) know what they see. 
Being is like light, but since its opposite does not exist in this world as in 
the case of light which stands opposed to darkness, one cannot come to know 

83 See Mulla Muhsin Faid-i Kashi, al-Mahajjat al-Baida' fi Ihya' al-Ihya', 4 Vols., 
Islamiyyah Press, Teheran, 1380-81 Solar, in which in ten sections he deals with 
Sufi ethics based on Shi'ah sources but following closely the model of the Ihya\ 

84 The Baihanat al-Adab, Vol. Ill, pp. 242-44, mentions 120 works by him. 
For the account of Mulla Muhsin's life and writings, consult also Qisas al-'Ulama\ 
pp. 322-33, and Riyad al-'Arifin, pp. 388-89. 

85 Mulla Muhsin Faid, A'lnih-i £hahi, Musawi Press, ghiraz, 1320/1902, p. 5. 

86 Kalimat-i Maknunah, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1316/1898. Henceforth 
our reference to this work will be to this edition. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

it so easily. God is hidden because of the excess of His light; no veil can 
cover Him because every veil is a limitation and God is above all 'limitations « 
Being tg the Truth which subsists by Itself, while everything else subsists by 
It. Being is not just a mental concept, the meaning of Being in the mind 
consisting only of a reflection of Being Itself. 

The divine attributes and names are identical with the divine essence 
while in themselves they are distinct. Likewise the forms of all beings in the 
divine intellect, i.e., the quiddities or essences, the mahiyat or a'yan al-tkabi- 
tah«* are in one respect identical with and in another distinct from essence 
Each being subsists by one of the divine names and its very existence consists 
in the invocation of that name. The archetypes, a'yan al-thdbitah, have two 
aspects; on the one hand, they are the mirrors in which Truth is reflected in 
which case they are hidden and Truth is manifest; and, on the other hand 
Truth is the mirror in which they are reflected, in which case truth is hidden 
and they are manifest. These two aspects correspond also to two states of 
contemplation: one of Truth (Haqq) and the other of creation (khalq) 
Ihe perfect gnostic contemplates both mirrors; he sees the cosmos as a mirror 
m which Truth is reflected, and his own essence as a mirror in which both 
the cosmos and Truth are reflected. Mulla Muhsin advises the sage to take a 
further step m eliminating himself also so that there remains nothing but 
Truth. 89 

Mulla Muhsin follows certain earlier Sufis in considering the world to be 
re-created at every instant, 9 " so that its continuity is only apparent The real 
continuity is "vertical," i.e., between Truth and its manifestations, not 
'horizontal" and "substantial," i.e., between parts and instances of the 
created world. The world is like a flowing stream which, although apparently 
a continuous and subsisted body, changes at every instant, each particle 
of it perishing at every instant and a new particle coming to take its place 

The creation of the world or the effusion of unity into multiplicity does 
not take place immediately but through the divine names, each creature 
being the theophany (tajalli) of a particular name. The name Allah is the 
supreme master (rabb al-arbab) of all the names, the theophany of which is 
the universa l man (al-insan al-lcdmil). Although the stages in which creation 

87 Ibid., p. 15. 

I 8 For an explanation of these terms see Seyyed Hossein Nasr, "Being and Its 
Po ansation, Pakwtan Philosophical Journal, Vol. Ill, No. 2, October 1959, pp 
8-13. In the general discussion among the Hakims as to whether these essences 
(or Being) are pmicipial, Mulla Muhsin sides with the school of isalat-i wujud the 
prmcipiahty of Being, and considers the mahiyat to be the accidents of Being 

m ^ ue T stK>n has been dealt with in the chapter on Suhrawardi MaqtuI 

KalimM-iMaknunah, pp. 3 Iff. Mulla Muhsin describes these stages also as 
the tlm al-y^n, in which one "sees" nothing but the divine essence, names, and 
Jh^W ° T <d .- y ^ tn '- «**«& one "sees" nothing but the essence and names; and 
the haqq al-yaqm m which there remains only the divine ipseity 
See T. Burckhardt, Introduction to Sufi Doctrine, pp. 64ff. 

The School of Ispahan 

comes into being are numerous, Mullah Muhsin names five degrees which mark 
the main steps. In the first degree is the divine essence which is above all 
distinctions and determinations; in the second are the names which are the 
manifestations of Truth in the world of divinity, vluhiyyah; in the third are 
the divine acts and world of spirits which are the manifestations of Truth 
in the world of Lordship, rubublyyah; in the fourth is the world of the "ideas" 
and imagination (khayal) n which is the manifestation of Truth in the world 
of varying forms; and in the fifth is the world of the senses which is the 
manifestation of Truth in determined forms. 92 Everything in the physical 
world has its archetype in the world of imagination, while everything in the 
world of imagination has its archetype in the world of lordship, and everything 
in the world of lordship is a form of one of the divine names, each name an 
aspect of the divine essence. 

Man alone among creatures is able to cast aside these veils and reach the 
divine origin of things. He has a particular soul brought into being with 
his body, which soul is independent of matter, and also a universal soul which 
exists before the body and is manifested only in the spiritual Site. Moreoever, 
man has a vegetative soul consisting of the faculties of attraction, repulsion, 
digestion, growth, and retention originating in the liver; an animal soul con- 
sisting of the faculties of the five senses originating in the heart; a sacred 
rational soul (nafs-i naiiqah-i gudsiyyah) with the faculties of meditation 
(fikr) and invocation (dhikr) ; and the universal divine soul (nafs-i kultiyyah-i 
ilahlyyah), not possessed by all men, with the faculty of reaching the station 
of annihilation (farm') in the Divine. 93 

The goal of each man should be to awaken the potential faculties within 
him until all the accidential obstacles are removed and he becomes identified 
with the universal man, the theophany of the supreme name. Then he will 
be able to contemplate Absolute Being and thereby fulfil the purpose of all 
creation and sustain the whole universe. 

The universal man is either a prophet or a saint. Absolute prophethood 
(nubuvwat-i mutlaq) is the supreme station, the perfect "form" of unity, the 
first pen, and the Pole of Poles, qutb al-aqtab, upon which all the prophets and 
saints depend. The inner (bdtin) dimension of this prophecy is absolute saint- 
hood (wilayat-i mutlaq). Mulla Muhsin identifies absolute prophethood with 
the light of Muhammad, and absolute sainthood with the light of 'Ali. The 
prophethood of all prophets depends upon absolute prophecy as the sainthood 
of all saints depends upon absolute sainthood. Prophethood began with Adam 
and found its completion in the Prophet Mubammad. Sainthood will reach 
its completion gradually until it culminates in the twelfth Imam, the Mahdi. 

91 This term should not be taken in its negative connotation; it has a positive 
moaning in Sufi cosmology and marks an intermediate stage between the sensible 
world and the spiritual world. See H. Corbin, Imagination creatrice . . ., Chap. II. 

92 Kalimat-i Malcnunah, p. 61. 

93 Ibid., pp. 74-75. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Absolute prophethood is the treasure of all possible perfections and the whole 
cosmos is the expansion and manifestation of its inner qualities. 94 

Gnosis and illumination are themselves the fruit of the tree of prophethood. 
Mulla Muhsin insists that the source of Hikmat was originally the sacred 
spirit of the prophets; this wisdom, however, was misunderstood and mis- 
interpreted by men of the later period, i.e., the Peripatetics and other later 
schools of Greek philosophy, and was revived only in the light of the revelation 
of the Prophet of Islam and his family. He who wishes to be initiated into it 
must, therefore, seek the aid of the prophets and saints and this can be 
achieved only by invocation and meditation and the purification of the heart. 
Only he who has trodden this path and become a true Hakim can be considered 
the real heir to the saints and the prophets. 95 

Mulla Muhammad Baqir Majlisi. — One cannot terminate a study of the 
intellectual life of the Safawid period without mentioning the two Majlisis, 
father and son, especially the son Muhammad Baqir who stands as one of 
the outstanding figures of the period. The first Majlisi, Muhammad Taqi 
(1003/1594-1070/1659), was one of the students of Shaikh-i Baha'i and an 
outstanding theologian and Sufi of his time. 96 His son, the second Majlisi 
(1037/1628-1110/1699), however, surpassed his father in fame and power and 
became the most dominant figure of Shi'ism. Having studied with his own 
father, Mulla Khalil Qazwlni, and Mulla Muhsin Faid, he in turn became the 
master of over a thousand disciples including Sayyid Ni'matullah Jaza'iri, 
well known for his many writings, especially the account of his own life 
as a student. 

The second Majlisi is especially famous for revivifying the various branches 
of the Shi'ah sciences and for assembling the writings of the earlier doctors 
of Shi'ism and prophetic hadlth into encyclopedias which have henceforth 
become the main reference for all who undertake religious education in the 
Shi'ah madrasahs. The most important and famous of these is the Bihar al- 
Anwar summarized in the Saflnat al- Bihar of Shaikh 'Abbas Qumi, the litho- 
graphed edition of which occupies twenty- four volumes; Haqq al-Yaqln in 
Usui; Hayat al-Qulub, a commentary upon the Tadhhib al-Ahkam of Khwajah 
Nasir al-Din Tusi; and the Mir'dt al-'Uqul, a twelve- volume commentary 
upon the Usui al-Kafi of Kulaini in which Majlisi for the only time in his 
writing career enters into purely intellectual ('aqli) questions and treats of 
many essential religious subjects, especially eschatology and the conditions 
before the appearance of the Mahdi, from an intellectual rather than a purely 
"confessional" point of view. 97 

M Ibid., pp. 167ff. 

95 Ibid., pp. 214-19. 

ae Raihanat al-Adab, Vol. Ill, pp. 460-62. The Mir' at al-Ahwal-i JaMn Numa' by 
Ahmad ibn Muhammad Baqir Ispahan! Bihbahani is devoted to his life and works. 

97 For the writings and life of the second Majlisi, see Raihanat al-Adab, Vol. Ill, 
pp. 455-60; Danish Pazhuh, Fihrist . . ., Vol. V., p. 1137! The Faid-i Qudsi by 


The School of Ispahan 

Of special interest in the religious life of Persia is Majlisi's opposition to 
Sufism and even the denial that his own father, the first Majlisi, was a Sufi. 98 
Furthermore, supported by the Court and many of the theologians and doctors, 
he opposed the intellectual method of the Hakims and philosophers with the 
result that both the Sufis and the Hakims fell into disgrace and had much 
difficulty in official religious circles. The dynasty which had begun as the 
extension of a Sufi order ended by opposing all Sufism and gnosis itself. It 
was not long after the death of the second Majlisi in fact that the Safawid 
dynasty itself fell before the onslaught of the Afghans, and Ispahan, the 
historic as well as the symbolic centre of this period of great intellectual 
activity, was sacked and its libraries burnt. 



This form of wisdom or Hikmat, some features of which we have sought to 
outline here, did not die with the termination of the Safawid dynasty. In 
the thirteenth/eighteenth century Sufism was revived in Persia by Ma'siim 
'Ali Shah and Shah Tahir Dakani, two Ni'matullahi masters sent by Rida' 
'Ali S_hah from Deccan to Persia. It was persecuted for a period but began 
to expand with the establishment of the Qajars. Likewise, the school of 
Hikmat continued through the students of Mulla Sadra and others from one 
generation to another until it produced Shaikh Ahmad Ahsa'i, the founder 
of the Shaikhi movement, 99 Haji Mulla Hadi Sabizwari, and several other 
outstanding figures in the Qajar period, the light of whose teachings has not 
yet disappeared from the horizon of Persia. One can hardly understand the 
intellectual life of Islam in its totality without taking into account this last 
major period of Muslim intellectual activity, lasting from the Safawid period 
to the present, to the understanding of which we hope this chapter will serve 
as an introduction and as an incentive for further exploration. 

Mirza Husain Nuri is devoted completely to his life and writings. Majlisi wrote 
thirteen Arabic and fifty-five Persian books which altogether occupy nearly a 
million and a half lines. 

B8 He devoted a treatise, the I'tiqadat, to rejecting Sufism. 

** Shaikh Ahmad is responsible for the last important religious movement within 
Shi'ism and should be studied separately as a founder of a particular sect. The 
leaders of this sect called the Shaikhis claim to have knowledge of all things, and 
so each of them from the time of Shaikh Ahmad to the present has composed 
a large number of treatises on all the sciences. For a list of the works of SJiaikh 
Ahmad and the other leaders of the Shaikhis, see abu al-Qasim ibn Zain al-' Abidin 
ibn Karim, Fihrist-i Kutub-i Marhum-i Ahsa'i wa Sa'ir-i Mashayikh-i l Izam, 
2 Vols., Sa'adat Press, Kerman, 1337 Solar. ' 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Abu al-Qasim ibn Zain al-'Abidin ibn Karim, Fihrist-i Kutub-i Marhum-i 
Ahsa\ wa Sa'ir-i Mashayikh-i 'Izam, Sa'adat Press, Kerman, 1337 Solar ; Agha 
Buzurgal-TihrSni.o/^DAaj-ra^al-Qharra Press, Najaf, 1355/1936 on; Baha'al-DIn 
•Amili, KuUiyat-i A&h'ar-i Farsi, ed. M. Tauhipur, Mahmiidi Press, Teheran, 1336 
Solar; E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, Cambridge University Press 
Cambridge, 1924, Vol. IV; H. Corbin, "Confessions extatiques de Mir Damad," 
Melanges Louis Massignon, Institut Francais de Damas, Damas, 1956; M B 
Danish Pazhuh, Fihrist-i Kitab Khanih-i IhddH-i Aqa-yi Sayyid Muhammad-i 
MiskkM, University Press, Teheran, 1332-35 Solar; C. Gobineau, Religions et 
philosophies dans VAsie Centrale, Gallimard, Paris, 1933; R. Q. Hidayat, Riyad 
al-'Arifin, Aftab Press, Teheran, 1316 Solar; Iskandar Baig Munshi, Tarihh'-i 
'Alam Ara-yi 'Abbasi, Musawi Press, Teheran, 1334 Solar; Muhammad Baqir 
Jthunsari, Raudat al-Jannat, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1306/1888; M. B. 
Mir Damad, Jadhawat, Bombay, lithographed edition, 1304/1886; Qabasat, Shaikh 
Mahmud BurQjirdi, Shiraz, 1315/1897; A.Mir Findiriski, Risaleh-i Sana'iyyah, ed. 
by A. A. Shihabi, Sa'adat Press, Teheran, 1317 Solar; Mulla Muhsin Faid-i Kashi, 
Kalimat-i Malcnunah, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1316/1898; al-Mahajjat al- 
Baida' fi Ihya' al-Ihya\ 4 Vols., Islamlyyah Press, Teheran, 1380-81 Solar; Nurullah 
Shushtari, Majalis al-Mu'minin, Islamlyyah Press, Teheran, 1375/1955; Shihab 
al-Din Suhrawardi, Opera Metaphysica et Mystica, Vol. I, Ma'Srif Mathaasi 
{Bibliotheea Islamica, 16), Istanbul, 1945, and Oeuvres philosophiques et mystiques, 
Vol. II, Institut Franco-Iranien, Andrien Maisonneuve, Paris, 1952; H. Corbin] 
"Prolegomenes"; Muhammad 'Ali Tabrizi, Raihanat al-Adab, Sa'di Press, Teheran,' 
1331-33 Solar; T. Tunikabuni, Qisas al-'Ulama\ 'Ilmiyyah Press, Teheran, 1313 

Chapter XLVIII 


The intellectual activity revived in Persia during the Safawid period, some 
features of which we have discussed in the previou schapter, "The School of 
Ispahan," found its culmination in Sadr al-Din Shlrazi known to his com- 
patriots as Akhund Mulla Sadra and to his disciples as simply Akhund 
or as Sadr al-MutVallihin, i.e., the foremost among the theosophers. This 
figure, about whom the whole intellectual life of Persia has revolved in the 
past three centuries and a half and who is one of the major expositors of 
Islamic intellectual doctrines in the Shi'ah world, has remained until today 

1 This chapter has been written with the invaluable help of Hajj Muhammad 
Husain Tabataba'i, one of the leading authorities on the school of Mulla Sadra in 
Iran today, the author of the twenty -volume Qur'anic commentary al-Mizan and 
the editor and commentator of the new edition of the Asfar. 

Sadr al-Din Shlrazi (Mulla Sadra) 

almost completely unknown outside Persia, even in other Muslim countries. 
Many have heard of his name, and nearly all travellers to Persia since the 
Safawid period, who have been interested in the intellectual life of the country, 
have recognized his importance and have been impressed by his fame, 2 yet 
no one outside a group of his disciples in Persia, who have kept his school 
alive until today, has done justice to his doctrines in presenting them to the 
world at large. 

Mulla Sadra, whose complete name is Sadr al-Din Muhammad, was born in 
Shiraz in about 979/1571, 3 the only son of Ibrahim Shlrazi. A member of 
the famous Qawam family of Shiraz, Ibrahim held the post of a vizier and 
was a powerful political and social figure in his native city. The young Sadr 
al-Din exhibited his exceptional intelligence from childhood and was given 
the best possible education in ShJraz. 

Having completed his early studies, he became intensely interested in the 
intellectual sciences (al-'ulum al-'aqliyyah), especially metaphysics, and, 

2 Comte de Gobineau, one of the most observant of travellers who have visited 
Persia during the past few centuries, was quite aware of Mulla Sadra's significance 
although not quite well acquainted with his ideas, for in a well-known passage he 
writes : "Le vrai, l'ineontestable merite de Moulla Sadra reste celui pue j'ai indique 
plus haut : c'est d'avoir ramine, rejeuni, pour le temps oil il vivait, la philosophie 
antique, en lui conservant les moins possible de ses formes avicenniques . . . ." 
Gobineau, Les religions et les philosophies dans VAsie centrale, les Editions G. Gres 
et Cie, Paris, 1923, p. 102. 

3 The date of Mulla Sadra's birth was unknown until quite recently when in 
preparing the new edition of the Asfar, Tabataba'i collected a large number of 
handwritten manuscripts of the work. On the margin of one of the manuscripts 
dated 1197/1782 with marginal notes by Mulla Sadra himself, the authenticity 
of which cannot be doubted, there appears this statement: "This truth was revealed 
to me on Friday, the 7th of Jamadi al-Ula 1037 A. H. when 58 years had passed 
from (my life) . . . ." Therefore, the date of his birth can be established as 979/1571 
or 980/1572. 

For the traditional accounts of the life of Mulla Sadra and his works, see M. B. 
Khunsari, Raudat al-Jannat, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1306/1888, Vol. II, 
pp. 331-32; M.' A. Tabrizi, Raihanat al-Adab, Sa'di Press, Teheran, 1331/1912, 
Vol. II, pp. 458-61; Mir Khwand, Raudat al-Safa, Teheran, lithographed edition, 
1270/1853, Vol. VIII, p. 120; T. Tunikabuni, Qisas al-'Ulama', 'Ilmi Press, Teheran, 
1313/1895, pp. 329-33, and Agha Buzurg Tihrani, al-I&nri'ah, al-Gharra Press, 
Najaf, 1355/1936, on dealing with various writings of Akhund. 

As for secondary sources, see M. Mudarrisi Ch ahardihi. Tarikh-i FaMsifth-i Islam, 
'Ilmi Press, Teheran, 1336 Solar, Vol. I, pp. 179ff.; A. A. Zinjani, al-FUsuf al- 
Farsi al-Kablr Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi, al-Mufid Press, Damascus, pp. 212-18, No. 3, 
1951, pp. 318-27; J. 'AH Yasin, Sadr al-Din al-Skirdzi Mujaddid al-Falsifat al- 
Islamlyyah, al-Ma'arif Press, 1375/1956, and the introduction by M. R. Muzaffar, 
in the new edition of the Asfar, Da'ir al-Ma'arif al-Islamiyyah, Qum, 1378/1958. 

For an account of the life and doctrines of Mulla Sadra in European languages, 
see Gobineau, op. cit., pp. 91-103; E. G.Browne, A Literary History of Persia, Uni- 
versity Press, Cambridge, 1924, Vol. TV, pp. 429-30; and M. Horten, Die Philo- 
sophie des Islam, Verlag Ernst Rheinhardt, Miinchen, 1924, pp. 57ff. Also Browne, 
A Year Amongst the Persians, Adam & Charles Black, London, 1950, pp. 141-43. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

therefore, left Shlraz for Ispahan which was at that time the capital and 
major seat of learning in Persia. In Ispahan he studied first with Baha' al-Din 
'Amili, learning the transmitted sciences (al-'ulum al-naqllyyah ) from him 
and later with Mir Damad who was his most famous master in the intellectual 
sciences.'" Within a few years he became himself a recognized master in all 
the branches of formal learning especially in Hiknutt* in which he soon sur- 
passed his own teachers. 

Not satisfied simply with formal learning, Mulla Sadra left worldly life 
in general and retired to a small village named Kahak near Qum where he 
spent fifteen years in asceticism and purification of his soul until, as he claims 
in his introduction to the Asfar, he became endowed with the direct vision of 
the intelligible world. He now came to "see" through illumination (ishraq) 
what he had previously learnt theoretically from books. 

Having reached both formal and spiritual perfection, Mulla Sadra returned 
once again to the world. Meanwhile AUahwirdi Khan, the Governor 
of Shlraz, had built a large madrasah and invited Mulla Sadra to return to 
Shiraz as the head of the new school. Akhund accepted the offer and returned 
to his native city, making the school of Khan the major centre of intel- 
lectual sciences in Persia.* He remained there until the end of his life spending 
the last period of his terrestrial existence entirely in teaching and writing. 

Despite his extreme piety which is shown by the fact that he made the 
pilgrimage to Mecca seven times on foot— he died in Basrah in 1050/1640 
during the seventh journey— Mulla Sadra was often molested by some 
of the exoteric 'uUma' who could not accept his gnostic interpretation of the 
doctrines of the faith and who denounced him publicly on more than one 
occasion. It was only the influence of his powerful family that made it possible 
for him to continue his teaching activities. 

Concerning Baha al-Din 'Amili and MTr Damad, see the preceding chapter 
To know the names of the masters of a Hakim is important because learning 
Hikmat from within is impossible without a master for the majority of even 
those who are gifted to pursue it. One can learn certain ideas from books alone 
but really to understand what Hikmat means and what the various authorities 
meant by various expressions there is need of a master who himself learnt the 
doctrines from another master and so on going back to the early masters. The 
Hakim is, therefore, as insistent upon the authenticity of his chain of masters as 
a verifier of hadilh m about the isndd of a tradition or a Sufi master about the 
siteilafi or cham of his tarlqah. 

5 We have already discussed in detail in previous chapters the meaning of this 
term as used here, i.e., a combination of gnosis, illuminationist and Peripatetic 
philosophy which is neither theology nor philosophy as currently understood but 
theosophy in the proper and original sense of the term and not in its present usurpa- 
tion by various pseudo-spiritualist groups. 

"• T aI X?» SCh ° 01 Which is ° ne of the most beautiful edifices of the Safawid 
period had fallen into ruins for some years when about ten years ago the Bureau 
of Archaeology of the Persian Government undertook the task of repairing it. It is 
now operating once again as a madrasah for traditional learning. 


Sadr al-Din Shirazi {Mulla Sadra) 

Mulla Sadra's life, then, can be divided into three distinct periods: the 
period of childhood and schooling in Shiraz and Ispahan, the period of ascetic- 
ism near Qum at the end of which the composition of the Asfar was begun, 
and the period of teaching and writing which represents the result and fruition 
of the other two periods. His life is itself the testimony of one of the main 
aspects of his wisdom, that in order to be effective theoretical knowledge 
must be combined with spiritual realization. 

The writings of Mulla Sadra, nearly all of which were composed in the last 
period of his life, are almost without exception of great merit and have been 
among the main sources from which the later generations of theologians, 
philosophers, and gnostics have drawn their inspiration. All his writings 
concern either religious sciences or metaphysics, theodicy or Hikmat, 1 and are 
in a very clear and fluent style making them more easily understandable to 
the reader than the writings of his predecessors like Mir Damad. 8 Since Mulla 
Sadra's writings are nearly completely unknown outside Persia, we take this 
opportunity to list the works which, according to the leading living authori- 
ties and the best historical evidence, were written by him. 9 The works dealing 
with metaphysics and intellectual sciences include: al- Asfar al-Arba'ah; 
al-Mabda' w-al-Ma'ad; Sirr al-Nuqtah (possibly not authentic); al-Shawdhid 
al-Rubvbiyyah, his most lucid and masterly work; al-Hikmat al-'Arshiyyah, 
glosses upon the Hikmat al- Ishraq of Suhrawardi Maqtul ; commentary (shark) 
upon the Hidayah of Athiri; 10 glosses upon the metaphysical parts of ibn 
Sina's Shifa"; Fi Ittihad al-'Aqil w-al-Ma'qul; Fi Ittimf al-Mahiyyah w-al- 
Wuj-ud; Fi Bad' Wujud al-Insan; Fi al-Tasaiowur w-al-Tasdiq; Fi al-Jabr 
w-al-Tafmd; Fi Hvduth al-'Alam\ Fi Hashr; Fi Sarayan al-Wujud; Fi al- 
Qada' w-al-Qadar; Fi Tashakhkhus; al-Masa'il al-Qudsiyyah ; Ikslr al-'Arifln; 
al-Waridat al-Qalblyyah; al-Qaiva'id al-Malakutiyyah; Hall al-Mushkildt 

7 He in fact criticizes ibn Sina for having spent his time composing works on 
other sciences like mathematics and medicine. 

8 The story is told in most of the traditional sources mentioned above that 
Mulla Sadra once asked Mir Damad why he was respected by all the religious 
authorities while Akhund, despite his powerful family, was molested so much by 
some of the 'ulamd\ Mir Damad answered that although they were both saying 
the same thing, he hid his ideas within so many difficult expressions that only 
the Hite would be able to understand them while Mulla Sadra wrote so clearly 
that anyone with a knowledge of Arabic could detect the trend of his ideas. 

» See also Raihanat al-Adab, pp. 458-61, where fifty works by him are mentioned, 
and A. A. Zanjani, op. cit., pp. 19-22 where he mentions twenty-six metaphysical and 
philosophical and seventeen religious works some of which are of doubtful 
authenticity. Refer also to J. 'Ali Yasin, op. cit., pp. 58-62, where twenty-six 
works are named. 

10 The Kitab al-Hidayah dealing with a complete cycle of Hikmat, i.e., logic, 
natural philosophy, and metaphysics, was composed by the seventh/thirteenth - 
century Persian author, Athir al-Din Mufaddal ibn 'Umar al-Abhari; it soon 
became one of the basic books of instruction in the madrasahs. The tenth/sixteenth - 
century commentary upon it by Kamal al-Din Mibudi was the best known before 
Mulla Sadra composed his own commentary upon it. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

al-FaUMyyah; introduction to 'Arsh al-Taqdis of Mir Damad; al-Mazdhir- 
glosses upon Raivdshih al-Samdwlyyah of Mir Damad, Khalq al-A'mal; ' Kasr 
al-Asrmm al-JdhUlyyah ; al-Mizaj; ai-Ma'dd al-Jismdni ; Tanqlyah in logic; 
diwan of poems in Persian; and answers to various questions on philosophy. 

The works that are primarily concerned with the religious sciences include 
the Qur'anic commentary: Mafdtlh al-Ghaib, Asrdr al-Aydt; commentary 
upon a large number of the verses of the Qur'an; commentary upon a few 
prophetic ahddlth fi Imdrrmh; glosses upon the Qur'anic commentary of 
Baidawi; glosses upon the Tajrld of Khwajah Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and upon 
Qushji's commentary upon the Tajrid (of doubtful authenticity); glosses upon 
the commentary upon the Lum'ah, commentary upon the Usui al-Kafi of 
Kulaini, one of the four major sources of Shi'ah Law;" MutashSbih al-Qur'dn; 
and a Persian treatise called Sih Ad on the soul and its destiny. 12 

Mulla Sadra composed also several quatrains in Persian, a few of which 
are mentioned in the traditional sources and some appear in his own hand- 
writing on the first page of his commentary upon the Hiddyah. 13 They deal 
mostly with the Sufi doctrine of the unity of Being (wahdat al-wujud), which 
may be considered to be the central theme of Mulla Sadra's doctrinal formula- 
tions. For example, in one of the quatrains he says: 

The Truth is the spirit of the universe and the universe the body, 
And the orders of the angels are the senses of this body ; 
The heavens, elements, and compounds are its organs; 
Lo ! unity is this, and the rest nothing but rhetoric. 
In dividing the writings of Mulla Sadra into the intellectual and the reli- 
gious ones, we do not in any way wish to imply that these two categories 
are completely separated in his view. On the contrary, one of the major 
achievements of Mulla Sadra consisted in uniting and harmonizing religion 
and the intellectual sciences. All of his works, even in philosophy, are replete 
with the Qur'anic verses in support of his conclusions; and all of his religious 
works, even the Qur'anic commentaries, are full of gnostic and intellectual 
interpretations. One can only say that some of Akhund's writings are con- 
cerned more with religious questions and others more with intellectual ones. 
Likewise, among the above-mentioned works some are more gnostic in 
character and others are presented in a more discursive language, although 

"The Usui al-Kafi was also commented upon by Majlisi as we have mentioned 
m the previous chapter. The commentary of Mulla Sadra which is of a more 
intellectual nature is one of the most important Shi'ah works written in the Safawid 
period and is perhaps his most significant religious composition. 
,wc S un P ubUshed trea * ise the manuscript of which exists in the Majlis Library 
(Mb. 103) in Teheran is the only known prose work of Mulla Sadra in Persian, all 
the other above-mentioned writings being in Arabic. 

\ 3 The manuscript of the Sharh al-Hiddyah in theMishkat Collection at Teheran 
University, MS. 254, is in Mulla Sadra's own handwriting; several quatrains appear 
m the opening pages which are without doubt his own. 


Sadr al-Din SJiIrazi (Mulla Sadra) 

they all bear the fragrance of gnostic doctrines. Among writings which are 
of a more gnostic vein one may mention al-Shciwahid ai-Rububiyyah, al- 
'Arshlyyah, Asrdr al-Ayat, and al- Wdriddt al-Qalblyyah, and among those 
wliich are presented in a more discursive language are the Sharh al-Hiddyah 
and the commentary upon the Shifd'. 

Without doubt the most important work of Mulla Sadra is the Asfdr al- 
Arba'ah. It is comparable in dimension and scope to the Shifd' and the Futuhdt 
al-Makklyyah and in a way stands midway between the Peripatetic encyclo- 
pedia of ibn Sina and the compendium of esoteric sciences of ibn 'Arabi. 
The title of Asfdr itself has been the cause of much difficulty to the few 
Orientalists who are acquainted with the book. The word asfdr is the broken 
plural for safar meaning journey as well as sifr meaning "book" from the 
Hebrew sefer. So it was that Gobineau considered the work to be a series of 
books on travel and E. G. Browne believed that the title meant simply "the 
four books." 14 

Both views are, however, erroneous. Actually, asfdr means journeys but 
not the account of travels in the ordinary sense of the word as Gobineau 
understood it to be. As Mulla Sadra himself mentions in his introduction to 
the book, the Asfdr consists of the following four stages or journeys of initiatic 
realization (suluk) : (i) the journey of the creature or creation (khalq) towards 
the Creator or the Truth (Haqq), (ii) the journey in the Truth with the Truth, 
(iii) the journey from the Truth to creation with the Truth, and (iv) the journey 
with the Truth in the creation. This monumental work is, therefore, an account 
of the stages of the journey of the gnostic, systematized in a logical dress. 

In content, the first book of the Asfdr deals with Being and its various 
manifestations; the second with the simple substances, i.e., the intelligences, 
souls, and bodies and their accidents including, therefore, natural philosophy ; 
the third with theodicy; and the fourth with the soul, its origin, becoming, 
and end. All these topics are treated in detail taking into account the 
views of previous sages and philosophers so that the work as a whole is quite 
voluminous. 15 In a sense this vast opus is the culmination of a thousand 
years of contemplation and thought by Muslim sages as well as the foundation 
of a new and original intellectual perspective which issues forth from within 
the matrix of the Muslim tradition. 

14 E. G. Browne, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 430. 

15 The 1282/1865 Teheran lithographed edition with the commentaries of Sabzi- 
wari on the margin runs over a 1,000 large pages and the new edition by Mr. 
Tabatabft'i with running commentary by himself and several other Hakims 
of the Qajar period including Sabziwari and Mulla 'Ali Nuri is planned in nine 
400-page volumes of which three have appeared so far. The Asfdr which is used 
in the graduate school of the theological faculty in Teheran University is taught 
over a three-year period and then only a part of the First Book is covered. It 
is said that Haji Mulla Hadi Sabziwari, the greatest Persian Hakim after Mulla 
Sadra, taught the complete Asfdr to his advanced disciples over a six -year period. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 
According to Mulla Sadra, there are two forms of knowledge: that derived 
from formal instruction (al-'ilm al-suwari) and that which comes from intel- 
lectual intuition (al-'ilm al-ladunni). The first is acquired in school with the 
aid of a teacher, and the second based upon a greater degree of certainty 
than the first, is the science possessed by the prophets and saints through 
the purification of the soul and the catharsis (tajrid) of the intellect." There 
are then, according to this view, two sources for Mulla Sadra's ideas, one 
formal and in a sense historical, i.e., manifested in history before him' and 
the other spiritual and invisible. Regarding this second source, which' may 
be called his "guardian angel" or "hidden Imam," the source of all inner 
illumination, we have little to say except to emphasize its importance in 
Mulla Sadra's view. 

It is with the first category that we are primarily concerned here. There 
are five principal elements which are clearly detectable in the new synthesis 
brought about by Mulla Sadra; they are also found, though less explicitly 
m the doctrines of the Safawid sages before him. These elements include the 
philosophy of Aristotle and his followers, the doctrines of the Neo-Platonic 
sages, especially Plotinus whose Enneads the Muslims considered to be a 
work of Aristotle, the teachings of ibn Slna, the gnostic doctrines of ibn 
'Arabi, and the principles of the Islamic revelation, especially the more esoteric 
teachings of the Prophet and the Shi'ah Imams." Among these sources the 
last two are of particular importance. Mulla Sadra created a new school of 
Hilcmat, on the one hand, by putting the intuitions of the gnostics and especially 
of ibn 'Arabi and his followers into a logical dress and, on the other hand by 
drawing out the philosophical and metaphysical implications of the teachings 
of the Imams especially as contained in the Nahj al-Balaghah, creating thereby 
for the first time what may be called a distinctly Muslim school of Hikmat 
based especially upon the inspired doctrines which form the very basis of 

Mulla Sadra, like Suhrawardi, held in great esteem the pre-Socratic philo- 
sophers and sages of Greece, both historical and mythological, and regarded 
Thales, Anaximander, Agathedemon, Empedocles, Pythagoras, Socrates Plato 
and Aristotle as the last group of sages in the ancient world to have possessed 
wisdom in its entirety. He, like many other Muslim Hakims, considered Greek 
philosophy not to have started with Aristotle but to have ended with him 
and believed all the later Greek sages to have been masters of various arts 

" Mulla Sadra, Mafatih al-Gkaib, al-Miftah al-Thalith, al-Mashhad al-Thamin 
■ + ,. *? , ,- P r f e< * m S chapter in which the formative elements of Shfah 
ScusSd g t0 MuUa - adra and ° ther ?afawid Sa = es h ^e"been 


Sadr al-Dln SJiirazi {Mulla Sadra) 

and sciences other than metaphysics. 18 For Mulla Sadra, therefore, Greek 
philosophy was essentially the wisdom of the Hebrew prophets inherited, 
systematized, and later in part forgotten by the Greeks, a wisdom which 
was integrated into the Muslim intellectual perspective and brought to full 
fruition in the bight of the Islamic revelation. That is why when Mulla Sadra 
wishes to reject some aspects of the teachings of either the Peripatetics or the 
Illuminationists he appeals so often first to the Qur'an and the Hadith and 
then to those fragmentary sayings of the pre-Socratic philosophers with which 
the Muslims were acquainted. 


The particular genius of Mulla Sadra was to synthesize and unify the three 
paths which lead to the Truth, viz., revelation, rational demonstration, and 
purification of the soul, which last in turn leads to illumination. For him gnosis, 
philosophy, and revealed religion were elements of a harmonious ensemble 
the harmony of which he sought to reveal in his own fife as well as in his 
writings. He formulated a perspective in which rational demonstration or 
philosophy, although not necessarily limited to that of the Greeks, became 
closely tied to the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet and the Imams, 
and these in turn became unified with the gnostic doctrines which result from 
the illuminations received by a purified soul. 19 That is why Mulla Sadra's 
writings are a combination of logical statements, gnostic intuitions, tradi- 
tions of the Prophet, and the Qur'anic verses. Through the symbolic 

18 See Asfar, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1282/1865, Book II, Section IV. 
Mulla Sadra writes that these pre-Socratic philosophers actually spoke in a symbolic 
language (ramzj and implied by their theory that the world was composed of a 
single element, the doctrine of the unity of Being or wahdat al-vrnjud which is 
the basis of the gnostic doctrines of ibn 'Arabi. Mulla Sadra in fact identifies the 
water of Thales with the nafas al-Rahman or the breath of the Compassionate 
which the Sufis consider to be the ultimate substance of the universe. These early 
Ionians who are considered by some today to be the founders of the modern quanti- 
tative sciences of nature appear to the Muslims in a different light as expositors 
of universal gnosis and those who, as Mulla Sadra writes, "have adopted the light 
of Hikmat from the lamp of prophecy." 

" For an account of the relation of Mulla Sadra to Shi'ism and his success in 
unifying the three above-mentioned elements, see M. H. Tabataba'i, "Musahibih-i 
Ustad 'Allamih Tabataba'i ba Professor Henri Corbin dar Barih-i SJu'ah," Salanih-i 
Maktab-i Tashayyu', No. 2, 1339 Solar, pp. 61-64. This is one of the most important 
works written recently by a Shi'ah authority on the general perspective of SJhi'ism 
and the various sciences developed by the Shi'ahs, and is the result of a series of 
meetings between him and H. Corbin in which the latter posed several basic questions 
about the spiritual attitude of Shi'ism and the relation between ghi'ism and 
Hikmat and Sufism. The book was written in answer to H. Corbin's questions and 
contains a wealth of precious knowledge about the intellectual life of SJhi'ism. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
interpretation of the sacred text he demonstrated the gnostic quality of the 
esoteric meaning of revelation and through intellectual intuition he made 
rational and discursive thought subservient to the universal truths of gnosis. In 
this fashion he achieved that synthesis of science and revelation in the light of 
gnosis and in the general perspective of Islam towards which Farabi and ibn 
Sina— the latter particularly in his Qur'anic commentaries— had aimed and 
which Ghazali, Suhrawardi, and the whole chain of sages extending from the 
Saljuq to the Safawid period had sought to achieve from various points of 
view. 20 

In metaphysics or, more generally speaking, Hikmat itself, Mulla Sadra is 
credited with founding the third major school of Muslim "philosophy," the 
first two being the Peripatetic school, the greatest exponent of which in the 
Islamic world was ibn Sina, and the Illuminationistic or ishraqi school founded 
by Suhrawardi Maqtul. 21 Mulla Sadra adopted certain principles from each 
school as, for example, the hylomorphism from the Peripatetics and the grada- 
tion of Being and the celestial archetypes from the Uluminationists. Moreover, 
he added certain principles drawn from the teachings of the Sufis like ibn 
'Arabi such as the continual becoming of the substance of the world and 
unity of Being which had never appeared as principles of any school of Hikmat 
and were never systematized in the logical language of the Hakims before 
Akhfind's time. That is why Mulla Sadra is often credited with founding a 
new and original form of wisdom in the Muslim world which is usually called 
al-Hikmat al-Muti'aliyyah as distinguished from al-Hikmat al-Masha'lyyah 
(Peripatetic philosophy) and al-Hikmat al-Ishraqiyyah {Illuminationist theo- 
sophy). 22 

20 It may at first seem surprising that Mulla Sadra wrote a treatise against 
those who called themselves Sufis. But if we consider the social and political 
conditions of the later Safawid period in which Sufism was greatly disdained by 
political authorities and much of it had become body without a soul, we can per- 
haps understand some of the motifs for Mulla Sadra's attack on it. However, the 
"Sufis" whom Mulla Sadra attacked were not the Sufis proper but those who were 
seeking to destroy the exoteric truths and bring about social anarchy in the name 
of an esotericism that they themselves did not possess. Otherwise there is not 
the least doubt of Mulla Sadra's connection with Sufism — although he preferred 
to use the name gnoetic ('drif) rather than Sufi— nor can one doubt in any way 
the gnostic quality of his doctrines. 

21 See the chapter on Suhrawardi Maqtul. 

23 If we have translated Hikmat as philosophy in one case and as theosophy in 
the other, it is because the meaning of this term includes both the wisdom belonging 
to the rational and mental plane or philosophy and the wisdom which transcends 
the level of the ordinary human mind and which, properly speaking, belongs to 
the angelic order and cannot be called philosophy as that term is currently under- 
stood in European languages. 

Sadr al-Dln Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) 


Before discussing the basic features of Mulla Sadra's doctrines it is useful 
to consider his conception of the relation of the sciences to one another and 
especially the meaning and significance accorded to Hikmat. In the intro- 
ductory chapter of the Asfar, he divides the sciences, following the Peripatetics, 
into theoretical wisdom consisting of logic, mathematics, natural philosophy, 
and metaphysics, and practical wisdom consisting of ethics, economics, and 
politics. 23 

In the treatise Iksir al-'Arijln, he outlines a somewhat more complete and 
in a way more original division of the sciences. 2 * According to this scheme, 
the sciences ('ulum) are either of this world (dunyawi) or of the other (ujchrawi) ; 
the first is divided into three categories: the science of words film al-aqwal), 
the science of acts ('Mm al-af'dl), and the science of states of contemplation 
or thought ('Mm al-ahwal or afkdr). 

The science of words comprises the sciences of the alphabet, word-con- 
struction, syntax, prosody, poetics, and the meanings of terms in logic. The 
science of acts consists of what belongs to various material objects from 
which the arts of weaving, agriculture, and architecture come into being; 
what is of a higher degree such as the art of writing, the science of mechanics, 
alchemy, etc. ; what belongs to providing a living for the individual and the 
society from which the sciences of family, law, politics, and the SharVah are 
created; and, finally, what belongs to the acquisition of spiritual and moral 
virtues and the casting away of evil from which the "science of the path" 
(Him al-tariqah), i.e., Sufism, comes into being. As for the science of states 
of thought, it consists of the sciences of logical demonstration, the science 
of arithmetic, the science of geometry including astronomy and astrology, 
and the sciences of nature including medicine and the various sciences dealing 
with minerals, plants, and animals. 

The sciences of the other world which are not accessible to the ordinary 
intelligence of men and are not destroyed with the death of the body include 
the knowledge of angels and intellectual substances, the knowledge of the 
Preserved Tablet (lauh al-mafyfiiz), and the knowledge of the Exalted Pen 
(al-qalam al-a'ld), i.e., of the divine decree and of the first determination of 
the divine essence which Mulla Sadra, following the earlier Sufis, calls also 
by the name of the reality of Muhammad (al-haqlqat al-Muhammadiyyah). 
These sciences also include the knowledge of death, resurrection, and all that 
pertains to life hereafter. 26 

23 See J. Muslih, Falsafih-i 'Ali ya Hikmat-i Sadr al-Muti'aUihin, Vol. I, Uni- 
versity Press, Teheran, 1337 Solar, p. 3. 

24 Sadr al-Dln Shirazi, Rasa'U, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1302/1884, pp. 

* 5 Mulla Sadra adds at the end of this discussion that the causes for the difference 
of view among various schools regarding different sciences are four in number: 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Among all the pursuits with which man can occupy himself in this life, 
none stands in as exalted a position as Hikmat the divisions of which we 
have outlined above. And among its branches none is as important and prin- 
cipial as metaphysics or the science of the principle of things, so that this 
branch of knowledge alone is often considered worthy of being called Hikmat. 
Mulla Sadra defines this science as "coming to know the state of the essence 
of beings as they are, to the extent of human capacity" or "a man's becoming 
an intellectual world (microcosm) corresponding to the objective world 
(macrocosm)," or, to quote still another definition, "the comprehension of 
universals and catharsis from the world of matter." 26 

The above definitions imply that Hikmat is a purely intellectual form of 
knowledge in which the knower himself undergoes a certain transformation 
in the process of knowing and his soul becomes a mirror in which the cosmic 
hierarchy is reflected. With such a conception then it is no wonder that 
Mulla Sadra spent so much of his life in teaching and writing about Hikmat 
only and regarded all the other sciences as its subsidiaries. 


In discussing the basic principles of Hikmat as understood and expounded 
by Mulla Sadra, we have chosen to mention those major principles of his 
thought which distinguish him from his predecessors and which are the charac- 
teristic elements of his metaphysics. The doctrines of the Peripatetic and 
Illuminationistie schools as well as the ideas of ibn 'Arabi and his followers 
form the common background for the metaphysics of Mulla Sadra. 

There are four topics in each of which Mulla Sadra has departed from 
earlier philosophical perspectives and which form the principles of his whole 
intellectual vision. These four subjects concern (1) Being and its various 
polarization, (2) substantial motion or the becoming and change of the sub- 
stance of the world, (3) knowledge and the relation between the knower and 
the known, and (4) the soul, its faculties, generation, perfection, and final 
resurrection. We shall consider these questions in the above-mentioned- order, 
emphasizing in each case the particular complexion given to these subjects 
by Mulla Sadra. 

1. Unity and Polarization of Being. — The cornerstone of Mulla Sadra 'a 

(i) differences in the science of unity leading to the creation of sects like the atheists, 
etc. ; (it) the science of prophecy leading to separation between Muslims, Christians, 
Jews, and other religious groups; (iii) the science of Imamate leading to division 
between the Shi'ahs and Sunnls; and, finally, (iv) the science of jurisprudence 
leading to the creation of various schools and interpretations of Law. Mulla Sadra 
adds that the main cause of multiplicity lies in misunderstanding the science of 
unity and the science of the soul or the science of the beginning and end of things. 
Basd'il, pp. 287-88. 

26 J. Muslih, op. cit., pp. 1-2. 


Sadr al-Din Shlrazi (Mulla Sadra) 

doctrines is the principiality and the unity and gradation of Being. As we 
have already mentioned, 87 one of the major points of contention among Muslim 
philosophers and theologians concerned the question whether Being or the 
quiddities (mahlyyat) of things are principial. We saw that the Muslim Peri- 
patetics like the Sufis believed in the principiality of Being, i.e., the objective 
reality of Being independent of mental abstractions, and considered the quid- 
dities to be nothing but accidents, while the Illuminationists beginning with 
Suhrawardi Maqtul and followed by Mulla Sadra's own teacher, Mir Damad, 
developed a "metaphysics of essences" and held the opposite view that 
existence is an accident and that the essences are principial. In this debate 
Mulla Sadra sided definitely with the Peripatetics and Sufis in accepting the 
principiality of Being, and opposed the Illuminationists. 

On the question of the unity and gradation of Being, however, Mulla Sadra 
departed from Peripatetic teachings completely. In the view of the Muslim Peri- 
patetics the being of each thing is in essence different and distinct from other 
beings while it is principial with respect to its own quiddity. According to 
Akhund. however, Being is the same reality in all realms of existence; it is 
a single reality but with gradations and degrees of intensity. Just as we say 
the light of the sun, the light of a lamp, or the light of a glowworm, and 
mean the same subject, i.e., fight, but with different predicates, i.e., under 
different conditions of manifestation, so in the case of Being, the being of 
God, of a man, of a tree, or of a heap of earth are all one Being or one reality 
but in various degrees of intensity of manifestation. 28 Moreover, Being, no 
matter where it manifests itself, appears always with its attributes or armies 
( l asdkir), as they are traditionally called, such as knowledge, will, power, 
etc. 29 A stone, because it exists, is a manifestation of Being and, therefore, 
has knowledge, will, power, and intelligence like men or angels. However, 
since at the level of a stone the manifestation of Being is very weak, these 
attributes are hidden and not perceptible. 30 

The various beings in the world of manifestation are all limitations of the 
one reality or Being. These limitations are abstracted by the mind and become 
the forms of quiddities (mahlyyat) of things, and when transposed into the 
principial domain, they become the Platonic ideas or archetypes. Unlike Being 
which is objectively real and in fact is the reality of the cosmos, the mahlyyat 

27 See Chapter XIX on Suhrawardi Maqtul. 

28 Mulla Sadra regards light as a perfect and intelligible example of the unity 
and gradation of Being and praises the Illuminationists on this point. See the 
first chapter of the Asfdr. 

29 See Seyyed Hossain Nasr, "The Polarisation of Being," Pakistan Philosophical 
Journal, Vol. Ill,' No. 2, October 1959, pp. 8-13. 

30 The doctrine of the unity and gradation of Being in Mulla Sadra is not new ; 
it was expressed clearly five centuries before him by ibn 'Arabi. Mulla Sadra, 
however, was the first person to give it a logical dress and introduce it as a 
principle of Hikmat as distinct from pure gnosis which does not concern itself 
with various logical distinctions. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
are accidents of Being abstracted by the mind without having a reality 
independent of Being. Even the archetypes (al-a'ydn al-thdbitah) possess a 
form of Being which in this case is God's knowledge of them. 

What distinguishes the earthly manifestation of things from their celestial 
archetypes is not a gradation of the mahiyyat from more subtle to more gross 
modes of existence, as certain followers of the Illuminationist school believe. 
Rather, it is the intensity of Being which determines the level of existence 
of each creature. If the light of Being shines upon the form or quiddity of a 
man with a greater intensity than now, he will become the man of the inter- 
mediate world fbarzakh) and if the intensity is greater still he will become 
the celestial man identified with his heavenly archetype. 

Absolute Being itself,, which is the proper subject for metaphysics, is above 
all limitations and, therefore, above all forms or mahiyyat, above all substances 
and accidents. It is the "Form of forms" and the Agent of all acts. By manifest- 
ing Itself longitudinally (Mi) It brings into being the various orders of Being 
from the archangels to terrestrial creatures and by manifesting Itself latitu- 
dinally ( l ardi) It creates the various members of each order of Being. 31 Being 
is the reality of all things so that the knowledge of anything is ultimately the 
knowledge of Its being and, therefore, of Being Itself. Likewise, the arche- 
types exist eternally through God's knowledge of them; their being is in fact 
this very knowledge without which they would have no share whatsoever in 

Since Being is unity in multiplicity and multiplicity in unity, 32 it partakes 
of logical distinctions and divisions while remaining in essence indivisible 
and above all polarizations. Mulla Sadra goes into great detail about the 
various divisions and categories of Being and in fact most of the first book 
of the Asfdr is concerned with them. We mention here a few of the divisions 
which Akhund discusses with great rigour in his various writings, especially 
in the monumental Asfdr. 

One division of Being is into connective being (al-vmjnd al-irtibdti) and 
self-subsistent being (al-wujud al-najsi). Connective being is that which con- 
nects a subject with a predicate as in the statement: "Man is a rational 
animal." Self-subsistent being is one which stands independently by itself and 

31 In dividing the hierarchies of universal existence into longitudinal and 
latitudinal orders Mulla Sadra follows the scheme of ishraqi angelology, which 
was discussed in the chapter on Suhrawardi Maqtul. 

32 What distinguishes the gnostics from the Hakims in this subject is that the 
former formulate the illuminations they receive which differ depending upon 
the degree of their inner realization. One gnostic in a certain state of contemplation 
(Ml) may have been aware of only the creatures or multiplicity as a reflection of 
unity, another of only God or Unity, and a third of unity in multiplicity. The 
Hakims, however, from a theoretical and more logical point of view, do not 
take particular perspective of the traveller upon the path (salik) into con- 
sideration and have even criticized some of the gnostics for considering multi- 
plicity to be completely unreal. 

Sadr al-Dln Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) 

is not simply the means of connecting two terms. This category of being which 
exists in itself is in turn divided into three kinds: that which in objective 
existence is not the quality of something else and is called substance (jauhar), 
that which is the quality of something else and is called accident ('ard), 
and, finally, that which has need of no cause outside of itself, i.e., the Being 
of God. From another point of view Mulla Sadra considers the being of all 
things other than God to be the connective being (wujud al-rdbit) and 
only the Being of God to be Being per se. 33 

Another division of Being adopted by Mulla Sadra is that of the necessary 
(wdjib), possible (mumkin), and impossible (mumtani' ) beings which nearly 
all the Muslim philosophers and many theologians coming after ibn Sina and, 
following his example, have accepted. 34 If the intellect considers a being and 
finds that the meaning of being is essential to it, i.e., lies in its essence, and 
that there are no causes outside it which have brought it into being, that 
being is called the Necessary Being. If it has need of a cause outside itself it 
is called possible being. Moreover, the attribute of possibility pertains to its 
quiddity as well as to its being. The possibility of its quiddity concerns its 
relation to its particular being, and the possibility of its being pertains to its 
relation to the Necessary Being. The being or existence of each object, therefore, 
depends upon the being of God and the knowledge of anything upon the 
knowledge of the root or principle of its own being. Since the root or basis of the 
Necessary Being is unknowable, the knowledge of the being of things remains 
also unknowable to us and it is only the quiddities or mahiyyat which we can 

These quiddities, as already mentioned, are the limitations placed upon 
being and abstracted by the mind. The intellect in perceiving any object 
immediately analyses it into being and quiddity, the latter consisting of the 
limit or determination of the former. It is only in the case of the Divine Being 
that such an analysis cannot be made because Absolute Being has no mdhiyyah. 
One can say that It is without mdhiyyah or that Its Being and mdhiyyah 
are identical. 

The quiddities in themselves are only mental concepts without a separate 
objective existence so that the effects produced by things come from their 
being and not from their quiddity. Likewise, cause and effect are categories of 
being which in one case becomes the cause and in the other the effect of things. 

The mahiyyat are either particular or universal; the latter either exist before 
particulars or are abstracted by the intellect from particulars. 36 The universals 

33 By this latter distinction, Mulla Sadra implies the difference which exists, or 
at least used to exist, in European languages between Being and existence. All 
creatures exist but only in the case of God can one, properly speaking, say that 
He "is." See Seyyed Hossein Nasr, "The Polarisation of Being," op. cit., pp. 8-13. 

34 See ibn Sfna, Kitab al-Shija' (Ilahlyyat), Teheran, lithographed edition, pp. 
29 Iff. 

35 The feature which distinguishes particulars from one another and determines 
all other qualities in them is, according to Mulla Sadra, their degree of being. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

which exist independently of all particulars are the archetypes of Platonic 
ideas upon the reality of which Suhrawardi Maqtul had insisted against the 
view of the Peripatetics. Mulla Sadra likewise criticizes Aristotle and ibn 
Sina for considering the Platonic ideas to be nothing but the forms of things 
impinged upon the divine intellect. He insists upon the reality of the arche- 
types in a spiritual world that is completely independent of the world of 
particulars as well as of all mental images formed in the human mind. 36 
Akhund praises Suhrawardi Maqtul and accepts fully the reasons he had 
given for the existence of the Platonic ideas or "masters of the species" 
(arbab al-anwa'). There is a spiritual man in the spiritual world who is the 
real cause for the activities and ontological qualities of the terrestrial man; 
likewise in the case of other species each has an intelligible idea or archetype 
which governs all the activities and life of that species on earth. 

The archetype is in essence one with its particulars but differs from them 
in characteristics which arise from the substance or "matter" of the particu- 
lars. The archetype appears different in each stage (taur) of manifestation 
while in the realm of reality it is one and the same truth. The beings of this 
world are the reflections and shadows of the archetypes so that they are 
like them and share in their reality and at the same time are different from 
them in being less real and farther removed from the source of Being. 

One of the principles for which Akhund is famous is called imkan al-ashraf 
or "the possibility of that which is superior." According to this principle, just 
as each being in treading the path of perfection passes through various stages 
from the lowest to the highest, so it is necessary that for each imperfect being 
in this world there be degrees of being in the higher stages of the cosmic 
hierarchy, since each being has descended from the divine Principle through 
intermediate states of being. For example, the being of man on earth in his 
present state of imperfection necessitates the being of man in the intermediary 
world of souls, and the latter the being of the spiritual man in the intelligible 
world. According to this principle, therefore, the very existence of quiddities 
in their earthly state of being necessitates the existence of these forms in the 
intermediate world of souls or the world of inverted or reflected forms (al- 
amthdl al-mu'allaqah) and these in turn necessitate their existence in the 
spiritual world of simple intellectual substances. 

After showing that the mahiyyat are in reality limitations of being, Mulla 
Sadra goes on to assert that the logical distinction made by Aristotle and all 

36 Mulla Sadra writes that it was Hermes who learnt about the truth of 
the "Platonic ideas" when he became illuminated by tho light of the intelligible 
world and separated from the world of the senses. In this state Hermes met an 
illuminated figure in the spiritual world who taught him all the sciences and when 
he asked the figure who he was, the figure answered, "I am thy perfect nature 
(ana tabti'aka al-tam)" Asjar, p. 121. For a study of the rich symbolism of "per- 
fect nature," which means the celestial or angelic part of the human soul, see 
H. Corbin, "Le recit d'initiation et l'hermetisme en Iran," Eranos Jahrbuch, Vol. 
17, 1949, pp. 121-88. 


Sadr al-Dln Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) 

the later philosophers between substance and the accidents which together 
form the ten categories concerns only the mahiyyat; Being, properly speaking, 
is neither substance nor accident but above both. When we say of a thing 
that it is such and such a substance or that its particular quality and 
quantity are its accidents we refer only to its mahlyyah and not to its being. 

The ralation of cause and effect, however, contrary to that of substance 
and accidents, concerns only the being of things. 37 All things in the universe 
have a cause and an effect and since everything is a manifestation of Being, 
every effect is but an aspect of its cause and cannot in essence differ from 
it. That is why the well-known principle that from unity only unity can 
issue forth, ex uno non fit nisi unum, must be true. From the divine essence 
which is simple and one, only a simple being can issue forth. Mulla Sadra 
calls this first manifestation of the divine essence extended being (wujud 
al-munbasit), the first intellect, the sacred effusion (faid al-muqaddas) or the 
Truth of truths (haqiqat aUhaqd'iq) which he considers to be one in essence 
but partaking of degrees and stages of manifestation. 38 

He divides reality into three categories: of the divine essence, of "Absolute 
Being" which he identifies with extended being, and of relative being which is 
that of the creatures. 39 The cause of all things, therefore, is extended being 
which in turn is the first determination of the divine essence. God is, thus, the 
Cause of causes and the Ultimate Source of all effects to be seen in the universe, 
because all causes and effects arise from the beings of things and all beings 
are in reality the stages of the One Being. 

To terminate our discussion of the polarizations of Being in cosmic existence 
we must also consider the question of form and matter. On this question 
Mulla Sadra sides with the Peripatetics and is against the Illuminationists 
in accepting the theory of hylomorphism. In his view, however, matter is 
not limited to the corporeal domain. Rather, it is the aspect of potentiality 
which manifests itself in all the realms of existence according to the conditions 
of that particular realm. Bodies have a matter belonging to the corporeal 
world, and souls (anfds), a matter conformable to the subtle world of the 
psyche ; moreover, in each world matter is a lower degree of being of the form 
with which it is united and for that reason accompanies it in all realms 
of existence until the highest realm which is the world of pure intelligences 

37 For the general discussion on cause and effect, see J. Muslih, op. cit., pp. 85 ff. 

38 It is this "simple being" or the supreme intellect which the Sufis before 
Mulla Sadra identified with the reality of Muhammad. See ibn 'Arabi, La sagesse 
des propUtes, tr. T. Burckhardt, Albin Michel, Paris, 1955, pp. 181 ff. 

39 According to a principle — which is another of the well-known doctrines for- 
mulated by Mulla Sadra and is called basit al-haqlqah kull al-askya\ i.e., 
Truth in its state of simplicity contains all things — the divine essence in its state 
of simplicity and "contraction" contains all realities within itself. This is indeed 
a direct consequence of the principle of the unity of Being; if there is but one Being 
and the whole universe is nothing but Being, the universe and all its realities are 
contained in a state of "contraction" in that One Being, 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

(mujarradat). That is why, as Akhund expresses it, matter has love for 
form which forever compels it to seek union with it (form). Only in the intel- 
ligible world, which is also called the 'alam al-jabarut, are the spiritual realities 
completely separated from and free of all species of matter, even the most subtle. 

2. Substantial Motion. — The question of potentiality leads to that of motion 
because motion, as Aristotle said, is becoming actual of that which is 
potential. Mulla Sadra rejects the possibility of sudden change from one 
substance to another which the Peripatetics accepted along with gradual 
change. Rather, he considers all change to be a form of motion and introduces 
the idea of substantial motion (ai-harakat al-jauhariyyah) , 40 which is another 
of the well-known principles associated with his name, as a basis of his whole 
outlook from which he goes on to prove the creation of the world in time, 
bodily resurrection, and many other doctrines that will be discussed in the 
course of this chapter. 

It is well known that the Muslim Peripatetics, following Aristotle, limited 
motion to only four of the ten categories, i.e., quantity (ham), quality (kaif), 
place (makan), and substance, 41 the last understood only in the sense of 
generation and corruption. Ibn Sina rejected completely substantial motion 
in any sense other than instantaneous coming into being and passing away 
and argued that since the essence of a thing depends upon its substance, if 
that substance were to change, its essence would also change and lose its 
identity. 42 

40 See J. Muslih, op. cit., p. 100. This distinction may seem to differ from what 
was said previously. But it must be remembered that the divine essence cannot 
be limited to Being, which is its first determination as well as the principle of 
universal manifestation. It is this distinction to which Akhund is referring here. 

41 Muila Sadra placed so much emphasis upon this point that he discussed it 
not only in the First Book of the Asfar but in many other chapters of the work 
and in nearly all of his other books as well. See also H. A. Rashid, Dau Fttsuf-i 
Sharq wa Gharb, Parwin Press, Ispahan, 1334 Solar, pp. 50ff., and J. Muslih, op. 
cit., pp. 128ff. Mulla Sadra in the Second Book of the Asfar and other places insists 
that he is not the first among the Hakims to have introduced this idea but that 
the pre-Socratic philosophers had indicated although not explicitly the existence 
of substantial motion. Moreover, he gives the Qur'anic verses such as "Do ye 
create it or are We the Creator ? We mete out death among you, and We are not 
to be outrun, that We may transfigure you and make you what ye know not" 
(lvi, 59-61, Pickthall's translation) in support of his view. 

42 See ibn Sina, Danish-Nameh-i 'Ald'i, (Tabi'iyyat), University Press, Teheran, 
1331/1912, pp. 3ff. Aristotle also in De Oen'eratione et Corruptions (319b, 31-320a, 
2) divides motion into the four categories of quantity, quality, place, and 
substance, and speaks of substantial change as one of the processes which charac- 
terize the sublunary region. But by substantial change Aristotle means only 
generation and corruption and for that reason later Muslim philosophers did not 
even apply the term "motion" to it and considered motion to belong only to the 
categories of quantity, quality, locomotion, and posture. 

Mulla Sadra, however, considers substantial motion to be an inner transformation 
of things somewhat in the alchemical sense in which there is not simply a coming 
into being and a passing away but a process through which a new Btate of being 


Sadr al-Dln ghirazi (Mulla Sadra) 

Following the Sufis, Mulla Sadra considered the world to be like a stream 
of water which is flowing continually and believes motion to be nothing but 
the continuous regeneration and re-creation of the world at every instance. 43 
According to him, it is not only the accidents but the substance of the universe 
itself that partakes of motion and becoming, i.e., continuous re-creation and 
rebirth. 44 In order to prove this assertion, Akhund makes use of several 
arguments. For example, he writes that it is an accepted fact that accidents 
have need of a substance upon which they depend for their being and proper- 
ties. Their subsistence depends upon the subsistence of their substence and 
their creation and regeneration upon its creation and regeneration. Therefore, 
every change which takes place in the accidents of a body must be accompanied 
by a corresponding change in the substance ; otherwise the being of the former 
would not follow the being of the latter. Or, in other words, since the effect 
must be the same as its cause, the cause or substance of a changing accident 
must itself be changing. 

In addition, it is known that all beings in the universe are seeking perfection 
and are in the process of becoming and change in order to overcome their 
imperfections. Since divine manifestation never repeats itself, God creates 
new theophanies at every moment in order to remove imperfections and 
bring new perfections to things. The matter of each being, therefore, is con- 
tinuously in the process of wearing a new dress, i.e., being wed to a new 
form, without, however, casting away its older dress. It is only the rapidity 
of this change that makes it imperceptible and guarantees the continuity and 
identification of a particular being through the stages of substantial motion. 

According to Mulla Sadra, each body consists of matter and two forms: 
one, the form of the body which gives matter dimensions and the possibility 
of accepting other forms, and the other the form of the species (surah nau'iy- 
yah) which determines the species and identity of the body. Each of these 

is reached. Moreoever, substantial change for the Aristotelians is sudden and 
instantaneous while for Akhund it is gradual like other forms of motion. Also, 
substantial change in the Aristotelian sense is limited to the sublunary region, 
while for Mulla Sadra the whole of gross and subtle manifestation partakes of 
substantial motion. Akhund's conception of substantial change, therefore, cannot 
be identified with that of Aristotle and should not be confused with it because of 
similarity in terminology. 

For an analysis of Aristotle's doctrine of motion, see also H. A.Wolfson, Crescas' 
Critique of Aristotle, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1929, pp. 512ff. 

43 Ibn Sina, S&ifa' (Tabi'iyyat), pp. 43-44. 

44 The idea that God annihilates and re-creates the world at every moment is 
one that is shared by the majority of the Sufis. Jalal al-Dln Rumi expresses it : 

"Every moment the world is being renewed, and we 

unaware of its perpetual change. 
Life is ever pouring in afresh, though in the body 
it has the semblance of continuity." 
R. A. Nicholson, Rumi, Poet and Mystic, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1950, 
p. 117. See also T. Burckhardt, Introduction to Sufi Doctrine, tr. D. M. Matheson, 
Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1959, Chap. IV. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
two forms is at every instant changing, and matter is taking on new forms at 
every moment. Moreover, at each stage of substantial change the totality 
of a being which itself consists of form and matter may be considered to be the 
matter of the aspect of potentiality for the next stage the actualized aspect of 
which then becomes the form. 

The power or force which motivates this change is nature which is a force 
hidden within the cosmic substance. In fact, since Being comes before nothing- 
ness, motion in this world comes before rest through the force immanent in 
the cosmos. Needless to say, this motion is limited to the degrees of cosmic 
existence in which matter is present, i. e., to corporeal and subtle manifestation, 
and does not extend to the world of pure intelligences or archetypes which 
are beyond all change. 

Substantial motion itself has also the two aspects of change and permanence. 
Each form has two faces, one in the world of archetypes and the other in 
nature, the first permanent and the second in continuous renewal. The sub- 
stance of the world itself is, therefore, the intermediary between permanence 
and change ; it possesses two aspects, one which is continuously in motion and 
the other, which Mulla Sadra identifies with the intelligences, above all change. 

Time, for Akhund as for Aristotle, is the quantity of motion, which, in a 
world of continuous substantial motion, becomes an inherent feature of cosmic 
existence. 45 It is, more specifically, the measure of the substantial motion of 
the heavens but not the measure of their rotation as held by the Peripatetics. 
The heavens, according to Mulla Sadra, are in continuous contemplation of 
the perfection of their beloveds, i.e., the universal intellects which at every 
instant cause a new form to be projected upon the essence of the universal 
souls. The cause of celestial motion is, therefore, the desire to reaching per- 
fection, a goal which, because of its limitlessness, makes celestial motion end- 
less. The heavens are in continuous creative worship, their motion being a 
sign of their contemplation of the divine by means of the intelligences, and 
their causing generation and growth in nature through their illumination 
being a sign of their act of creation. The whole world, therefore, both in its 
gross and subtle domains, partakes of substantial motion, and time is the 
measure of this motion as it occurs in the heavens where it is most regular 
as well as regulatory. 46 

45 Substantial motion is essentially a rebirth because it always means the attain- 
ment of a new state of Being. 

46 From what we have said above it is clear that in Mulla Sadra's view motion 
is principial, for it is an inherent characteristic of corporeal and even subtle 
existence, and time is subservient to it contrary to the view of many previous philo- 
sophers who considered motion to be subservient to time. Mulla Sadra's concep- 
tion of time as the quantity of substantial motion, which is itself the renewal of 
cosmic existence, bears much resemblance to the doctrine of abu al-Barakat al- 
Baghdadi for whom also time is the measure or dimension of existence. See S. Pines, 
NouveUes etudes aur Awhod al-Zamdn Abu'l-Barakat cd-Baghdddi, Librairie Dur- 
lacher, Paris, 1955, Chap. II. 



Sadr al-DIn Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) 

Mulla Sadra makes use of the principle of substantial motion to explain 
many of the most intricate problems of metaphysics and physics including 
the relation between permanence and change which we have already mentioned, 
the creation of the world, the creation of the soul, and various eschatological 
questions. This principle can, therefore, be regarded as one of the distin- 
guishing features of his doctrinal formulation. 

As to the question of creation Akhund opposes the simple creation ex nihilo 
of the theologians who believe the world to have been brought into being 
in time from utter nothingness. Likewise, he rejects the view of the Peripatetics 
who believe the world to have been created only in essence or in principio 
but not in time and the view of Mir Damad about al-huduth al-dahri." Mulla 
Sadra believes that creation is in time (al-huduth al-zamani) because through 
substantial motion the being of the universe is renewed at every moment or, 
more explicitly, that the world is created at every instant, so that one can say 
that the being of the world depends upon its non-being at a previous moment. 
Where he differs from the theologians is that his conception of creation 
ex nihilo is complementary to the view that the archetypes of the world of 
creation exist changelessly in the intelligible world and that the world is 
connected with its divine origin through a permanent hierarchy. 

This hierarchy begins with the first determination of the essence which 
Akhund, following the Sufis, calls the reality of Muhammad. 48 This is followed 
by the pure intelligences which are completely separated from matter and 
potentiality, the last of which is the giver of forms to the universe and 
the governor of the world of generation and corruption. 4 * This last intellect 
is like a mill that grinds out new forms at every moment to feed the hyle of 
the world. It governs the world according to divine decree and gives revelation 
to prophets and inspiration to saints. Following the intelligible hierarchy 
there is the world of cosmic imagination or inverted or reflected forms or the 
purgatory between the intelligible and the material domains and, finally, the 
visible universe. The world is, therefore, created in time in the sense that its 
being is renewed after a moment in which it "was not"; at the same time 
it is the terminal state of an immutable hierarchy which through the 
subtle and angelic realms of being relates the visible cosmos to its divine 

3. Divine and Human Knowledge. — From what we have already said, it is 
clear that for Mulla Sadra knowledge forms the very substance of cosmic 
manifestation itself and is moreover the gate to and means of salvation for the 
soul. Like all other gnostics Akhund considers knowledge and being, or, from 

47 In Fast 33 of the first book of the Asjar, Akhund writes that all bodies are 
limited within the four dimensions of length, breadth, depth, and time, and are 
differentiated by the division inherent in time, while their unity is preserved 
through their celestial archetypes or Platonic ideas. 

48 See Chapter XLVII. 

49 See Mulla Sadra, cU-Wdridat al-Qalbiyyah, Rasa'il, pp. 243-49. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

another point of view, the knower and the known, 50 to be essentially the 
same and identifies the being of things with God's knowledge of them. 51 God 
knows His own essence and His essence is none other than His Being, and 
since His Being and essence are the same, He is at once the knower, the 
knowledge, and the known. 

In the case of the pure intellects or forms that are completely divorced 
from matter also, the intellect and the intelligible are the same, the difference 
in the two instances being that, although knowledge of the intellects is identical 
with their being, it is not identical with their quiddities, since their being sur- 
passes their quiddities, whereas in the case of God knowledge is identical both 
with Being and quiddity, since God's quiddity is the same as His Being. 62 

Mulla Sadra rejects the Peripatetic notion that God's knowledge of things 
is the projection of their forms upon His essence as well as the idea followed 
by many Illuminationists that God's knowledge is the presence of the very 
forms of things in His essence. Rather, he uses the gnostic symbol of a mirror 
and considers the divine essence a mirror in which God sees the forms 
or essences of all things and in fact, through the contemplation of these forms 
or archetypes in the mirror of His own essence, He brings all things into being. 
Moreover, since the forms of all creatures, universal as well as particular, 
are reflected in His essence, God has knowledge of every particle of the uni- 
verse. 53 

Mulla Sadra divides knowledge ('Urn) into acquired (husuli) knowledge 
and innate (huduri) knowledge and, like the Illuminationists, divides the 

50 The world of change here as in the ease of Suhrawardi Maqtul means the 
whole visible universe and not only the sublunary region of the Aristotelians. 
According to Mulla Sadra, the difference between the sublunary region composed 
of the four elements and the heavens composed of ether lies only in that the matter 
of the heavens is more subtle than the gross matter of the terrestrial environment 
and is governed by pure souls that are free from the passions of earthly souls. 

51 The principle that the intellect, intelligence, and the intelligible are one (ittihad 
al-'aqil w-al-ma'qul) is another point in which Mulla Sadra opposed the previous 
Muslim philosophers. This principle, which was accepted by the Neo-Platonists, 
was rejected by ibn Sina (see Isharat, Haidari Press, Teheran, 1379/1959, Vol. Ill, 
pp. 292-93) and other Peripatetics. Akhund, while acknowledging his debt to 
Porphyry and earlier Greek philosophers (see his Rasd'il, p. 319), considered him- 
self the first among Muslims to have reinstated this principle which is made a 
cornerstone of his intellectual edifice. Actually Afdal al-Dm Kashani and before 
him abu al-Hasan 'Amiri in his Kitab al-FufQl fi al-Ma'alim al-Ilahiyyah had 
accepted this principle (see M. Minosie, "Az Khaza'in-i Turktyyah," Revue de la 
Facidte des Lettres, Universite de Teheran, Vol. IV, No. 3, Mars 1957, p. 59), but 
it was Mulla Sadra who first systematized this principle and demonstrated it 

For a discussion of the principle of the union of the intellect and the intelligible, 
see Asfar, pp. 277 ff. 

52 "God's knowledge of things is identical with their being" (Mulla Sadra, oZ- 
Skawahid al-Rububiyyah, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1236/1820, p. 36). 

53 See Mulla Sadra, Shark al-Bidayah al-Athiriyyah, Teheran, lithographed 
edition, 1315/1897, pp. 308-09. 


Sadr al-Din ghirazi (Mulla Sadra) 

latter category into the knowledge of a thing of itself, of a cause of its effect, 
and of an effect of its cause. Perception is for him a movement from potentiality 
to actuality and an elevation in the degree of being in which the perceiver 
or knower rises from his own level of existence to the level of existence of 
that which is perceived through the union between the knower and the 
known which characterizes all intellection. 

As for acquired knowledge or the knowledge of the human soul of things 
other than itself, it is not a reflection of the forms of things upon the soul 
and the soul does not have a passive role in the act of knowing. Rather, since 
man is a microcosm composed of all degrees of existence, his knowledge of 
things comes from the contemplation of these forms in the mirror of his own 
being much like divine knowledge with the difference that God's knowledge 
leads to objective existence (cd~wujud al-'aini) of forms, while man's knowledge 
leads only to their mental existence (al-vmjvd al-dhihni). Otherwise, man's soul 
has a creative power similar to that of God; its knowledge implies the creation 
of forms in the soul — forms the subsistence of which depends upon the soul 
as the subsistence of the objective universe depends upon God. 54 

According to Mulla Sadra, mental existence or the presence in the mind 
of forms that yield knowledge of things as well as knowledge of itself is 
above the categories of substance and accidents and is identical with Being 
Itself. The knowledge that the soul has of things is just like the illumination 
of the light of Being. This knowledge establishes the form of that which is 
perceived in the mind, as Being establishes and manifests the forms and 
quiddities of things externally. Moreover, it repeats in an inverted order the 
degrees of cosmic manifestation. Just as cosmic existence originates from the 
divine essence through the world of the intelligences and consists of the degrees 
of cosmic souls, bodies, forms, and matter, so knowledge begins from the 
senses, then rises to the level of the imagination, apprehension, and finally 
intellection ascending the scale of Being to the summit from which the whole 
of universal manifestation has descended. 

4. Soul, Its Origin, Becoming, and Entdechy. — Another of the important 
changes which Mulla Sadra brought about in the formulation of Hikmat was 
the emphasis he laid upon the importance of psychology or the science of the 
soul film al-najs) above and beyond what Peripatetic philosophy had accorded 
to it. Moreover, he removed the discussion of psychology from physics or 
natural philosophy and made it a branch of metaphysics and a study that is 
complementary to the science of the origin of things. 65 

The soul (nafs), according to Mulla Sadra, is a single reality which first 



54 See his BascfU, p. 240, where he quotes the Qur'anic statement that "not a 
particle of dust in the heavens and earth is hidden from God's knowledge" as a 
support and consequence of his conception of divine knowledge. 

85 Akhund adds that in the case of prophets and saints, the creative power of 
the soul becomes so great that like God Himself it can even create objective and 
external forms. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

appears as the body (jism) and then through substantial motion and an 
inner transformation becomes the vegetative soul, then the animal soul, and 
finally the human soul. This development occurs from within the substance 
of the original body without there being any effusion from the heavenly souls 
or the active intellect. 56 The substance of the human sperm is at first potentially 
a plant ; then as it grows in the womb it becomes actually a plant and poten- 
tially an animal. At birth, it is actually an animal and potentially human, 
and finally at the age of adolescence it is actually human and potentially 
either an angel or a disciple of the devil. 67 All of these stages lie hidden within 
the first substance or germ which through substantial motion traverses the 
degrees of being until it becomes completely divorced from all matter and 
potentiality and enjoys immortality in the world of pure intelligences. 58 The 
soul is, therefore, brought into being with the body but it has spiritual sub- 
sistence independent of the body. 59 Or, to be more precise, the soul at the 
beginning "is" the body which through inner transformation passes through 
various stages until it becomes absolutely free from matter and change. 

The soul in each stage of its journey acquires a new faculty or set of faculties. 
As a mineral it has the faculty of preserving its form and as a plant, the faculties 
of feeding, growth, and the transformation of foreign substances into its own 
form. As an animal the faculties of motion and various forms of desire 
are acquired, and as a higher animal it develops in addition to the ex- 
ternal senses the inner faculties of memory and imagination. 60 Finally, in 
man the five inner faculties : sensus communis (hiss al-mushtarik) which per- 
ceives forms, apprehension (wahm) which perceives meanings, fantasy (khayal) 
which preserves forms, memory (dhakirah) which preserves meanings and the 
double faculty of imagination (mutakhayyilah), and thought (mutafakkirah) 
which in the first case governs the sensible and in the second the intelligible 
domains, are also acquired. 61 Throughout its development it is the same 

56 The whole of the fourth book of the As far is devoted to the science of the 
soul where the soul takes on a meaning totally different from the quasi-material 
substance of the Aristotelians. 

Mulla Sadra often speaks of the complete science of things as mabda' w-al-ma'ad, 
the origin and end, and has even a book by this name. He identifies the science of 
mabda' with theodicy and metaphysics and that of ma'ad with psychology and 

57 The view of Mulla Sadra regarding the growth and perfection of the soul 
resembles the alchemical view in which the power to reach perfection is con- 
sidered to lie within matter itself and not outside it. 

88 Mulla Sadra, al-Shawahid al-Rububiyyah, pp. 152ff. 

59 That is why Akhund writes that "the first seed of the universe was the intellect 
and the last stage is also the intellect which is the fruit of that same tree" (ibid., 
p. 165). 

60 This principle which in Arabic is called jismaniyat al-huduth wa ruhaniyal 
al-baqa" is another of the doctrines for which Mulla Sadra is famous. 

S1 We have not enumerated these faculties in detail because Mulla Sadra follows 
the earlier Muslim authors especially ibn Sina on this point. See Chapter LXVI 
on "Natural History" regarding the various faculties. 


Sadr al-Din §hirazi (Mulla Sadra) 

single soul which in one case appears as sight, in another as memory, and 
in yet another as desire. The faculties are not something added to the soul 
but it is the soul itself or, in a more esoteric sense, Being itself which appears 
in various forms in each case. 82 The soul passes through this stream of becom- 
ing — this world — and the parts of its course are marked by the archetypes 
or Platonic ideas that distinguish one species from another. It wears a new 
dress and a new guise at each point of the stream but the traveller is through- 
out one and the same. 63 

Although the enumeration of the inner faculties by Mulla Sadra is essen- 
tially the same as that made by previous Muslim authors borrowing it 
from Aristotle, there is one point in which Mulla Sadra departs from the 
Peripatetics completely. It is well known that Aristotle considered only the 
universal intellect to be immortal and the Muslim Peripatetics like ibn Sina 
accorded immortality only to the intellectual part of the human soul. Mulla 
Sadra, following certain Sufi and Hermetic teachings, asserts that the faculty 
of imagination enjoys also a form of immortality or at least existence inde- 
pendent of the body. He considers the universe to consist of three domains: 
the intelligible world, the sensible world, and an intermediate world (barzakh) 
of imagination which is macrocosmic as well as microcosmic. The faculty of 
imagination in man as well as in some of the higher animals is, according to 
Akhund, a microcosmic counterpart of the cosmic imagination and has the 
power of creating forms. Upon the death of the body, this faculty, like the 
intellectual part of the soul, enjoys a form of life of its own and may in fact 
lead the souL to the intermediate world if it is the dominant element in the 

Mulla Sadra, like other Sufis, compares the soul to the cosmos on the one 
hand and to the Qur'an on the other, identifying the higher states of being 
of the soul with the esoteric meanings of the Qur'an. 84 There are seven degrees 
of existence for the soul as there are seven heavens and seven levels of inter- 
pretation of the Qur'an. These degrees he enumerates as nature (tabl'ah), 
soul (nafs), intellect f'aql), spirit (ruk), secret (sirr), hidden secret (khafi), 

62 Al-Shawahid al-Rububiyyah, pp. 134ff. 

83 By emphasizing the immanent aspect of the development of the soul, Mulla 
Sadra does not forget the transcendent factor, for in the treatise Ikslr al-'Arifin 
he writes that the archangel Israf il blows life into the body and gives it the power 
of sensation and motion, that Mfka'il enables the body to assimilate food and 
sends it its sustenance, that Jibrll gives it instruction regarding the revelation and 
acts of worship and finally that 'Izra'il enables the soul to abstract forms from 
matter and to separate itself from the body. Rasd'il, pp. 306-07. 

** Concerning the traditional conception of cosmic becoming, see A. K. Cooma- 
raswamy, "Gradation and Evolution," Isis, XXXV, 1944, pp. 15-16; XXXVIII, 
1947-48, pp. 87-94. 

As for the unity of the soul which from the gnostic point of view is identified 
with the divine essence or self, see A. K. Coomaraswamy, "On the One and Only 
Transmigrant," Journal of the American Oriental Society, June 1944, No, 3, pp. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

and the most hidden state (akhfa) which is that of perfect union with God. 65 
Bach corresponds to a state of being, the totality extending from the life of 
nature or the senses to the divine life of union with God. 

Aceording Mulla Sadra from another point of view the soul has two 
faculties the practical ('amali) and the theoretical filmi or nazari), which 
latter at first is dependent upon the former but later becomes completely 
independent. The practical faculty consists of four stages: making use of the 
Law (Sharl'ah) of various religions sent to guide mankind, purifying the soul 
from evil qualities, illuminating the soul with spiritual virtues and the sciences, 
and finally annihilating the soul in God, beginning with the journey to God 
and then in God and finally with God. 86 

As for the theoretical faculty it too is divided into four stages: the potential 
or material intellect (' aql al-hayiMni) which has only the capability of accept- 
ing forms, habitual intellect ('aql al-malakah) which knows only simple and 
preliminary truths such as the truth that the whole is greater than its parts, 
the active intellect ('aql hi al-fi'l) which no longer has need of matter and 
concerns itself solely with intellectual demonstrations and is either acquired 
or bestowed as a divine gift and finally the acquired intellect (' aql al-mustafad) 
which is the active intellect that has been united with the divine origin of 
all existence and is the highest degree attainable by man and the purpose of 
cosmic existence. These stages are also road-marks upon the path trodden by 
the soul without implying any form of multiplicity ; the soul remains the one 
traveller traversing all these stages on the road to perfection, the fruit and 
end of which is union with God. 

Mulla Sadra deals with eschatology in great detail in many of his works and 
departs completely from the usual philosophical language in the treatment 
of this subject. His language is primarily that of the Qur'an and the Hadlth 
and of the gnostics. According to Akhund, the relation of this world to the 
next is like that of the mother's womb to this world. While the child is in 
his mother's womb he is actually in this world as well, but being sparated 
from this world does not know of its existence. likewise, man, while in this 
world is also in the next but the majority of men are unaware of the invisible 
world. Only the gnostics "see" the other world while they are here on earth 
and that is because for them terrestrial existence has become transparent. 

Akhund divides cosmic beings into five classes each of which has a destiny 
and an end proper to its nature: 67 the pure intelligences separated from all 

45 According to a famous hadlth of the Prophet, accepted by the Shi'ahs and 
the Sunnis alike, the Qur'an has seven levels of meaning the last known only to 
God. It is from the esoteric interpretation of the revealed book that Mulla Sadra 
and Sufis before him have drawn the gnostic doctrines inherent and hidden in the 
Islamic revelation as they are in all other revelations. 

« e Iksir al-'Arifin, Baaa'U, p. 295. This terminology is a very old one in Islam; 
it was adopted by the early Sufis from the traditions of the Prophets and Imams. 

67 Al-ghatvdhid al-Rubublyyah, p. 140. 


Sadr al-Din Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) 

potentiality; the intelligences which govern the heavens; the various psychic 
entities belonging to the world of the imagination such as the jinn and certain 
parts of the human soul, animal and vegetable souls ; and, finally, minerals 
and elements. The separated intelligences subsist forever in the divine essence 
and are never separated from it. As for the rational soul (al-nafs al-ndtiqah), 
it is either perfect, as the souls of the heavens and of some men, and, in both 
cases, returns to God, or else it is imperfect. In the latter case it is either 
devoid of all desire for perfection as in the animals and those human beings 
who have committed much evil in this life, or it is desirous of perfection like 
many persons who, having chosen the wrong path, realize their mistake and 
wish to be guided towards the Truth. In the former case the soul, like other 
psychic entities belonging to the intermediary world, after separation from 
the body becomes united with the forms of the intermediary world of imagina- 
tion ('atam al-mithal) ; 68 in the latter case the soul suffers after its separation 
from the body until it is finally purified and united with God. 

Plants are either used as food by men and animals and, therefore, share in 
their destinies, or have an independent existence, in which case, after the end 
of their terrestrial existence, they join their archetypes in the world of pure 
forms. Likewise with minerals and the elements ; they too become united with 
their intelligible counterparts after their terrestrial existence terminates. In 
fact, these terrestrial beings are united with their archetypes even while they 
are on earth, but only the gnostics are aware of this reality. 

As for man's bodily resurrection on the Last Day, Mulla Sadra considers 
it to be one of the great mysteries of metaphysics revealed only to those who 
have reached the highest stage. 89 He accepts bodily resurrection which he 
interprets in a particular fashion. It is known that man's individuality and 
distinguishing characteristics come from his soul and not from his body be- 
cause the substance of the body changes every few years without in any way 
destroying the unity of the human beings. Of the faculties of the soul, however, 
intellection and imagination are innate to it, while the vegetative and animal 
faculties such as the external senses and passions are received by it through 
the body. According to Akhund. in the next world all souls will receive the 
power to create external forms as prophets and saints do here in this world. 
For example, each soul can create the pleasure received through sight from 
within itself without the need of what appears to us here as an external organ. 
In other words, the organs of the body which appear as "external" to the 
soul are created from within the soul in the next world so that the resurrection 
of the soul is really complete with the body according to all the meanings we 
can give to the word "body." 

68 Mulla Sadra, Sisalah fi al-Hashr, RasaHl, pp. 341-58. 

69 In the case of animals, after death they join the masters of their species 
(rabb al-nau') or archetypes except the higher animals who have the faculty of 
imagination developed in them. They have an independent existence in the world of 
cosmic imagination without however being distinct individually as in the case of men. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Difference between paradise and hell lies in that the souls in paradise 
have the power to bring into being all the forms that are beautiful and pleasant, 
all the flowers and houris of paradise, while the impure souls in hell 
have only the power to bring into being ugly and unpleasant forms and are 
in fact forced to suffer by the very forms they will have created. Mulla Sadra 
adds, however, that ultimately the pains suffered in the inferno will come to 
an end and, as ibn 'Arabi had said, the fires of hell will freeze and all will 
return to the divine origin of things. 70 


As mentioned in the introduction to this chapter, the importance of Mulla 
Sadra lies not only in rekindling the lamp of learning and reviving the intel- 
lectual sciences fully for the first time in the Muslim world after the Mongol 
invasion, but also for uniting and harmonizing revelation, gnosis, and philo- 
sophy together. Some authors have criticized Mulla Sadra for taking certain 
principles from ibn 'Arabi, Farabi, and Suhrawardi Maqtiil and have, 
therefore, refused to accept his "originality." But as Aristotle has said 
so justifiably, there is nothing new under the sun. One cannot create a meta- 
physics of one's own as if metaphysics were a mechanical invention. The prin- 
ciples have always been and will always be the same. What determines the 
originality of an author in a traditional civilization like that of Islam is his 
ability to reinterpret and reformulate the eternal verities in a new light and 
thereby create a new intellectual perspective. 

Regarded in this way, Mulla Sadra must certainly be considered to be one 
of the most significant figures in the intellectual life of Shi'ah Islam. Coming 
at a moment when the intellectual sciences had become weakened, he succeeded 
in reviving them by co-ordinating philosophy as inherited from the Greeks 
and interpreted by the Peripatetics and Illuminationists before him with the 
teachings of Islam in its exoteric and esoteric aspects. He succeeded in putting 
the gnostic doctrines of ibn 'Arabi in a logical dress. He made purification of 
the soul a necessary basis and complement of the study of Hikmat, thereby 
bestowing upon philosophy the practice of ritual and spiritual virtues which 
it had lost in the period of decadence of classical civilization. Finally, he 
succeeded in correlating the wisdom of the ancient Greek and Muslim sages 
and philosophers as interpreted esoterically with the inner meaning of the 
Qur'an. In all these matters he represents the final stage of effort by several 

70 See Mulla Sadra, al-Mabda' iv-al-Ma'ad, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1314/ 
189G, pp. 272ff.' 

He criticizes both the naturalists who deny the existence of the soul after death 
and the Peripatetics who accept only the resurrection of the soul but not of the 


Sadr al-Din Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) 

generations of Muslim sages and may be considered to be the person in whom 
the streams, which had been approaching one another for some centuries before, 
finally united. 71 

More specifically, Mulla Sadra was able to harmonize his doctrinal formulation 
with the teachings of Islam in such a way as to overcome all the major diffi- 
culties which the Peripatetic philosophers met in the face of the teachings of 
the Qur'an and for which al-Ghazali criticized them so severely. 72 Of particular 
significance was his divorcing metaphysics to a large extent both from Ptolemaic 
astronomy and Aristotelian physics. While in Europe Galileo, Kepler, and 
Newton were destroying the homogeneity of Aristotelian cosmology and 
physics and in this way weakening the medieval Christian world-view which 
was closely linked with it, Mulla Sadra, through his doctrine of substantial 
motion and through considering the science of the soul to be independent of 
physics, separated metaphysics to a large extent from medieval natural 
philosophy. This separation, although perhaps not of immediate significance 
in the eleventh/seventeenth-century Persia, which was still immune from 
European ideas, became of great importance in the later centuries. As the 
modern scientific world-view became more and more accepted in Persia 
during the Qajar period, the separation brought about by Akhund between 
metaphysics and natural philosophy helped to preserve the traditional wisdom 
in the face of attacks by modernists whose only weapon was modern scientific 
theories connected with the world of matter. In this way also, Akhund rendered 
great service to the Muslim intellectual sciences and helped their preservation 
until today. 

There is no doubt that nearly the whole of the intellectual life of Persia 
during the past three centuries and a half has centred around Mulla Sadra. 
Of his immediate students, Mulla Muhsin Faid, 'Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji, and 
Qadi Sa'id Qumi, all of whom are among the leading figures of Shi'ah Islam, 
we need say little here for they have already been discussed in a previous 
chapter. 73 It need only be added that these men in turn produced a generation 

71 This esoteric view expressed in his commentary upon the Usui al-Kafi as 
well as in the Asfar was one most attacked by the exoteric K vlama\ The religious 
perspective which appeals essentially to the sentimental or passionate aspect of 
human nature must insist upon "eternal" punishment and reward in order to 
have its laws accepted in human society. Only the esoteric view meant for the 
saintly and appealing to the contemplative aspect of man, can take into consider- 
ation the relativity of heaven and hell with respect to the divine essence without 
in any way denying the reality or "eternity" of reward and punishment in the life 
hereafter with respect to human existence here. 

52 For the background leading to Mulla Sadra, see Chapter XLVII on "The School 
of Ispahan" in this work. See also Mulla Muhsin Faid, al-Mahajjat al-Baida\ 
Vol. I, Islamiyyah Press, Teheran, 1379/1959, introduction by Sayyid Muhammad 
Mishkat, pp. 10-23, in which the background leading to Mulla Sadra as well as 
the distinguishing principles of his own doctrines is discussed. 

73 It will be remembered that al-Ghazali in his al-Munqidh rnin al-Dalal con- 
sidered the philosophers to be infidels on three points : their rejection of the resurrec- 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

of students who extended the teachings of Akhund far and wide. 74 In the 
Qajar period, after a short interim of anarchy caused by the Afghan invasion, 
the school of Mulla Sadra was once again revived, the most famous of its 
members being Haji Mulla Hadi Sabziwari, Mulla *Ali Nuri, author of one 
of the most important commentaries upon the Asfar, Shaikh Ahmad Ahsa'i, 
founder of the Shaikhi movement and the commentator upon Mulla Sadra's 
Mashd'ir, Mulla 'Ali Mudarris Zunuzi, author of a significant work Bada'i' 
al-Hikam in Persian and glosses upon the Asfar, and Muhammad Hidaji, 
also the author of a commentary upon the Asfar™ 

The influence of Akhund is to be met with wherever the traditional school 
of Hikmat is still preserved and taught in Persia. 76 All the adherents of this 
school have regarded Mulla Sadra as their master and it is no exaggeration 
to say that Akhund stands along with Farabi, ibn Sina, al-Ghazali. Nasir 
al-Dln Tusi, Suhrawardi MaqtuI, and ibn 'Arabi among the principal formula- 
tors of the Muslim intellectual sciences and, though not well known outside 
Persia, is no lesser a figure than his more famous predecessors." In him the 
many spiritual streams of the earlier centuries met and united in a new river 
which has watered the intellectual soil of Persia during the past four centuries ; 
his teachings are as alive today as they were at the time of their formulation. 

tion of bodies, their limiting God's knowledge to universalis, and their belief in the 
eternity of the world. See W. Montgomery Watt, The Faith and Practice of al- 
Ghazali, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1953, p. 37. 

From what we have discussed of Mulla Sadra's doctrine it is clear that he accepted 
the resurrection of bodies, God's knowledge of particulars, and creation of the 
world in time though not quite in the sense as that of the theologians. 

74 Mulla Sadra's doctrines were especially influential in India to which country 
one of his disciples by the name of Muhammad Salih Kashani migrated — afterreaching 
a wild state of ecstasy during one of Mulla Sadra's lessons — and where he attracted 
many disciples. The works of Mulla Sadra have continued to be taught in the Islamic 
schools of the Indian sub-continent, especially his Shark al-Hidaydh which came to 
be known by the author's name as Sadra. Many glosses have been written on it 
by various philosophers and scholars in India such as Muhammad Amjad al- 
Sadiqi (d. 1140/1727), Mulla Hasan al-Lakhnawi (d. 1198/1783)', Muhammad A'lam 
al-Sindlli (d. 1250/1834), and 'Abd al-'Ali Bahr al-'Ulum who lived in the thirteenth/ 
ninteenth century. Numerous manuscripts of these and other glosses on the Shark 
al-Hiddyah are to be found in such libraries as the Baza Library of Rampur and 
the Khuda Bakhsh Library in Patna (see the Catalogue of Arabic and Persian 
Manuscripts in the Oriental Library at Bankipur, Vol. XX [Arabic MSS.], Bihar 
and Orissa, 1936, MSS. No. 2351, 2368, 2371-78). 

75 See Chapter XLVII on "The School of Ispahan." 

7S For a list of the names of Mulla Sadra's disciples in the Qajar period, see 
Raihanat al-Adab and Gobineau, op. cit., pp. 103ff. 

77 Iqbal's statement that, "It is, moreover, the Philosophy of Sadra which is 
the source of the metaphysics of early Babism" (Development of Metaphysics in 
Persia, London, 1908, p. 175) is true only in a negative sense in the same way 
as the doctrine of the Rhenish mystics might be considered to be the source of the 
Protestant revolt during the Renaissance. 


Ibn Khaldun 


Ja'far 'Ali Yasin, Sadr al-Dln al-Shirazi Mujaddid al-Falsifah al-Isldmiyyak, 
al-Ma'arif Press, Baghdad, 1375/1955; Sayyid Jalal al-Dln Aghtiyani, Hasti az 
Nazar-i Fatsafih wa 'Irfan, Khurasan Press, Meshed, 1379/1959; Muhammad 
Husain Fadil-i Tuni, Ilahiyat, University Press, Teheran, 1333 Solar; Comte de 
Gobineau, Les religions et les philosophies dans VAsie centrale, Ies Editions G. Gres 
et Cie., Paris, 1923; M. al-Khudairi. "Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi," Risalat al-Islam, 
No. 2, 1950, pp. 212-18, No. 3, i951, pp. 318-27; Murtada Mudarrisi Qhahardihi, 
Tarikh-i FaUtsifih-i Islam, 2 Vols., 'Ilmi Press, Teheran, 1336 Solar; JawadMuslih, 
Falsafih-i 'Ali ya Hikmat-i Sadr al-Muti'attihin, Vol. I, University PresB, Teheran, 
1337 Solar onwards (this work is a translation and commentary of the Asfar in 
Persian of which only the first of the several volumes has appeared so far) ; Husain 
'Ali Rashid, Dau FUsuf-i Sharq wa Qharb, Parwln Press, Ispahan, 1334 Solar; 
Sadr al-Din Shirazi, al-Asfar al-Aarba'ah, ed. Muhammad Husain Tabfifcaba'i, 
Vols. I & II, Da'ir al-Ma'arif al-Islamiyyah, Qum, 1378/1958 onwards (this is a 
projected nine-volume edition of the Asfar with various commentaries of which 
three have appeared so far); also Teheran, lithographed edition, 1282/1865; Asrar 
al-Ayat, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1322/1904; Hctshiyah l ala Sharh Hikmat al- 
Ishraq, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1316/1898; al-Mooda' al-Ma'hd, Teheran, 
lithographed edition, 1314/1896; Mafatihal-Ghaib, Teheran, lithographed edition; al- 
Mashd'ir, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1315/1897; Sharh al-Hidayat al-Athiriyyah, 
Teheran, lithographed edition, 1313/1895; Sharh Ilahiym al-Shifa 1 , Teheran, litho- 
graphed edition, 1303/1885; Sharh Usui al-Kafi, Teheran, lithographed edition; al- 
Shauxthid al-Eububiyyah, Teheran, lithographed edition, 1286/1869; Kasr Asnam 
al-JahUiyyah, ed. M. T. Danish Pazhuh, University Press, Teheran, 1340 Solar; 
Sih Asl, ed. S. H. Nasr, University Press, Teheran, 1340 Solar; Mulla Sadra 
Commemoration Volume, University Press, Teheran, 1340 Solar; S. J. Sajjadi, The 
Philosophical Vocabulary of Sadr al-Din Shirazi. University Press, Teheran, 1380/ 
1960; S.H.Nasr, "Mulla Sadra dar Hindustan," Rahnamayi Kitab, Vol. IV, Dai, 
1340 Solar; Akbar S&irafi,' Tdrikh-i Folosifih-i Islam, Danish Press, Teheran, 1315 
Solar; Muhammad Husain Tabataba'i, "Musahibih-i Ustad 'Allamih Tabafaba'i ba 
Professor Henri Corbin dar Barih-i Shi'ah," Salanih-i Maktab-i Tashayyu', No. 2, 
Qum, 1339 Solar; abu 'Abd Allah al-Zinjani, al-Filsuf al-Farsi al-Kabir Sadr 
al-Din al- Shirazi, al-Mufid Press, Damascus, 1936; M. Horten, Das Philosophische 
System des Schirazi, Strassburg, 1913. 

Part 6. Political Thought 

Chapter XLIX 

The consideration of ibn Khaldun's political philosophy within the context 
provided by a work on the history of Muslim philosophy, and in a chapter 
concluding the history of Muslim political philosophy in the classical period, 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

must face and attempt to clarify the complex problem of the precise character 
of the political aspect of ibn Khaldun's new science of culture, and its theo- 
retical and practical implications when contrasted with the various philosophic 
practical sciences and Muslim legal sciences that share the same subject-matter. 
In this attempt, the investigator is faced with the dilemma that, although 
ibn Khaldun shows intimate acquaintance with these philosophical and legal 
disciplines and with the writings of his predecessors on them, he does not 
present himself in his major work either as a philosopher or as a writer on 
legal matters ; does not choose to continue either the Greek and Muslim tra- 
dition of political philosophy or any of the traditional Muslim legal sciences ; 
and does not make a direct or thematic contribution in the form of a treatise 
on any of these disciplines. He considers his main contribution to be an almost 
wholly new science based on natural philosophy yet advancing beyond tra- 
ditional natural philosophy by using certain conclusions of natural science to 
construct a complete science of culture. 

The investigation of culture inevitably led ibn Khaldun to the investigation 
of the phenomenon of government, which is both a constituent part and the 
"form" (surah), i.e., the organizing principle, of culture. The third section 
of Book One of the "History" is devoted to this subject, and its title indicates 
the various problems which it investigates: "On States, Kingship, the Cali- 
phate, and Sovereign Ranks; and the States Occurring in These— Containing 
Fundamental [Propositions] and Supplementary [Inquiries]." 1 Since govern- 
ment is the form of culture as a whole, we also find extensive discussions of 
this subject in all the other sections of Book One, including the section on the 
sciences. This treatment of political matters is not, however, an independent 
discussion and is not based on premises of its own but forms an integral part 
of the science of culture. 

Ibn Khaldun himself distinguishes his new science, and his investigation 
of political matters within the scope of this science, from the traditional 
political science or political philosophy of his Greek and Muslim predecessors 
and also from the Muslim legal sciences. After recapitulating the substance 
of his own investigation of politics, an attempt will be made in this chapter 
to understand how he characterizes his new endeavour and justifies his 
departure from the well-established philosophical and legal traditions. We 
shall find that what appears at first to be an effort simply to distinguish 
between the science of culture and political philosophy and the legal sciences, 
progressively takes the form of a critique of, first, certain propositions, and, 
secondly, of the entire subject-matter of political philosophy and of dialectical 
theology, though the critique of the latter discipline is less pronounced and 
more implicit. In this connection, ibn Khaldun raises a number of problems 

1 Q. I 278ff. Cf. Book 4, Part 4, Chapter XL VI for bibliographical information 
about ibn Khaldun's works and other works cited in the footnotes. Complete 
bibliographical information will be given in this chapter only for works not 
abready cited. 

Ibn Khaldun 

crucial for understanding the character of both his own science of culture 
and of the entire history of Muslim political philosophy and dialectical theo- 
logy. In attempting to explore some of these problems, we have restricted 
ourselves to the issues that are indispensable for a fuller understanding of 
ibn Khaldun's position and have presented them in a perspective that seems 
to us to serve this purpose best. In characterizing the political thought of his 
predecessors, ibn Khaldun does not pretend to be an impartial historian; he 
assumes the role of a severe critic. This criticism is not based on blind faith 
or love for contention, but on certain theoretical and practical considerations. 

In the section devoted to political authority and institutions, 2 ibn Khaldun 
remains loyal to the specific character of his new science. He begins with, 
and thereafter repeatedly recalls, the premises he had posited for the science 
of culture as a whole. 3 The dominant theme of his discussion of political life 
is the explanation of the natural causes, powers, properties, stages, and 
accidents inherent in the properties of the human soul, and how they lead of 
necessity to the formation of political life and subject it to certain natural 
and necessary laws of human association. 4 

Like culture as a whole, political life is considered by ibn Kh aldun to be 
a generated natural being. The methods he follows in determining its character- 
istics are, therefore, adopted from natural science in general, and from biology 
in particular. 5 Genetically, he follows the development of political life through 
its various stages: how it is generated, grows, reaches its maturity, sickens, 
and dies. In biology, the efficient cause of this movement is taken to be the 
soul and its temper (mizaj). In culture, ibn Khaldun considers the efficient 
cause of the movement to be a specific property of the human soul, i.e., 
social solidarity ('asabiyyah) which is a combination of the natural feeling 
for one's relatives and friends, and of the need for defence and survival. It 
cements a group together, dictates the need for a ruler, leads to conflicts with 
other groups, and generates the power of conquest leading to victory over 
others ; its initial power determines the extent of this conquest ; and the fulfil- 
ment of appetites and desires, finally, weakens it and leads to the dis- 
integration of political power.* 

This genetic method is supplemented by the analytical method through 
which ibn Khaldun distinguishes and compares the various forms of political 
power, and the institutional arrangements within each form. Apart from the 
purely natural regime in which a tyrant or small bands or groups give free 

2 Q.I, 278; II, 201. 

3 Q. I, 278: 5-7, 337-38, 394:3, 415:5; II, 126. 

4 Q. I, 247-48, 291 : 15-16, 293, 294: 16-18, 299-300, 309, 336-38, 342; II, 19:4-5, 
65ff., 93ff., 106-07, 128. 

5 Q. I, 299-300, 305-06, 309 ff. 

6 Q.I, 291:15-16, 293, 294:16-18, 299:14, 331:1 2, 342; II, 93ff. 108ff. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

rein to their appetites, there are two major types of regimes: (a) rational 
regimes in which the appetites are ordered by the agency of human reason 
for the sake of a more peaceful and permanent enjoyment of worldly things, 
and (b) regimes of divine Law in which prophet-legislators, through the power 
of their souls to communicate with the "unseen" (explained in the sixth 
premise), posit laws which order the affairs of men and the enjoyment of 
both worldly things and things of the soul useful for man's welfare in the 
world to come. This inquiry is supplemented with a description of the various 
institutional arrangements and offices in both types. 7 

Throughout this discussion, ibn Khaldun insists that his treatment of 
political life is not to be confused with the treatment of political life in the 
Islamic legal sciences which aim at determining the legal prescriptions to be 
followed by adherents to the Islamic Law, with the sayings of popular wisdom 
which do not explain the nature of political life, or with political science or 
political philosophy which aims primarily at determining how man ought to 
conduct himself to achieve happiness and perfection. 

In summarizing the Third Book of the Laws, al-Farabi informs us that 
Plato explained that all the nomoi are subject to generation and corruption 
and regeneration, and that he explained the growth of cities, the develop- 
ment of the arts, and the origins and development of governments. 8 In this 
context, al-Farabi employs the two central terms which have come to be 
associated with ibn Khaldun's new science, i.e., 'umran and 'asabiyyah* Since 
al-Farabi indicates that generation and corruption are inherent in all the 
nomoi and in all cities all the time (i.e., they occurred in the past, occur now, 
and will occur in the future), he is also alluding to the fact that Muslim govern- 
ments and laws are equally subject to these natural laws. 

The context within which this and similar discussions occur, however, 
indicates that, for the political philosophers, the explanation of the natural 
origins and the generation and corruption of regimes is not an independent 
inquiry but a subservient branch of the art of legislation and, ultimately, of 
political science ; its aim is to provide the legislator with the necessary know- 
ledge upon which to base his decisions in laying down such laws as are appro- 
priate to the particular group for which he is legislating under particular 
circumstances. In contrast, the immediate and apparent context within which 
ibn Khaldun's inquiry into political affairs is pursued is not the art of legisla- 
tion or political science, but the science of culture which he develops as an 
independent science His major contribution consists in pursuing this inquiry 
with relative freedom from the art of legislation and of political science or the 
art of determining how men ought to live ; and in elaborating all the natural 

■> Q.I, 342ff.;II 126ff. 

8 Tathhis Naivamis Aflatun ("Compendium Legum Platonis"), ed. Franeiscus 
Gabrieli ("Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi, Corpus Platonicum, Plato Arabus,' 
Vol. Ill), London, The Warburg Institute, 1952, pp. 16-18. 

» Ibid., pp. 17:4, 18:2 and 6, 24:10, 33.13,41:6. 

Ibn Khaldun 

properties and concomitants of political life necessitated by man's natural 
constitution. Furthermore, he is the only Muslim thinker who has 
shown, explicitly and in detail, that Muslim history and Muslim regimes are 
indeed subject to these natural laws of generation and corruption, and, 
therefore, has insisted that the proper understanding of Muslim history pre- 
supposes the natural understanding of the essential properties of man and 
human association in general. 

In defending the legitimacy of his new inquiry into political matters, ibn 
Khaldun does not attempt to present it as a new version of political philo- 
sophy or as a substitute for it, but rather to explain the distinction between 
the new inquiry and the established practical philosophic sciences. This 
distinction is made on the ground of certain basic differences which ibn Khaldun 
invokes at appropriate places in the course of his inquiry. The examination 
of these differences will shed light on the fundamental character of both 
Muslim political philosophy and ibn Khaldun's new science of culture. 

Immediately after formulating the basic principles of the new science, 10 
and asserting its relative independence and newness, ibn Khaldun sets out 
to show that "it does not belong to the science of rhetoric, for the subject 
of rhetoric is convincing speeches, useful in attracting the multitude toward 
a certain opinion or turning them away from it." 11 "Nor does it belong to 
the science of 'political government' [siyasat al'madanlyyah] , for political 
government is the administration of the household ort he city as is obliga- 
tory [bima yajib] according to the requirements of ethics and wisdom so that 
the multitude be made to follow a course leading to the protection and 
preservation of the [human] species. Thus, its subject differs from the subject 
of these two arts which are perhaps similar to it." 12 Only after having stated 
this difference does ibn Khaldun proceed to suggest that the new science 
"is, as it were, newly discovered." This suggestion is offered reluctantly 
on the ground that he could not find it in the works of the Greek wise men 
available to him, a fact which seemed to him to be in need of some expla- 
nation: "The wise men perhaps were concerned in this with the fruits [of 
the sciences]; and the fruit of this [science] is, as you saw, in [the cor- 
rection of historical] reports only. Even though its problems in themselves 
and in their proper spheres are noble, its fruit is the rectification of 
[historical] reports which are weak [ornot significant : da'lf]. That is why they 
deserted it." 13 

10 Q. I, 61; cf. above, Chap. XLVI. 

11 Cf. Q. Ill, 322, where ibn Khaldun refers to the flowing prose used "in rhetorical 
[speeches] and prayer, and encouraging and frightening the multitude," and also 
324 where he indicates the political use of such rhetorical speeches. 

« Q.I, 62:3-10. 
13 Q.I, 63:5-8. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

it, and setting it apart, from rhetoric andloSi, * dlstin «*Wng 

in showing that it does not b^^££T™ T ^ "" ^^ 
delimiting the subject-matter „f tl T , ■ , ta he does thro "g'> 

ends or r!s„l ta J%£?7. £Z£ T^ ^ -H""** tU, 
and governing it acco „£, to fc^toZS"f° , S! " *° the mUWtUde 
direct fruit of the science of edte 7ZZZ i! frit " <>nd ™ d ° m - T "= 
tnde or making it follow an ethi™ Z^ o™™""* the multi. 

turn requires fhe k„„wTeJ£ tf Sat ^^7 Z ""* ° f "* ^ * 
wisdom of the fegislator and the ^ and Sm^Tco^ "V™^ 1 
tude), but simply the understanding oTthe „at™ .M °? ,"* 

and human association or culture an unnW^tT u- fT ert,es ° f m »» 
the specific aim of rectifyin^'rical renoT^* * ^ ^^ With 

an art concerned with how ^ ™ht TZ I ""^f * "^^ h DOt 
governed, or how the multitude Tto ,J ^ ^ ^t^ ^.^ 
into how man has actually lived in the past ZT.', i ^° mqnily 

the modes of human association TnTl > ^ ienat i "^ «■<«« determining 

oflife pursued in thediv3ul; n IS:Wwht„ "**'- l"" ™ yS 
subject-matters and, consequeTtly to Zl , ?' "^^^ ° f their 

accepting it. Ibn KhaldO^nlt. Tf k ° """"^ or ° b %>tion of 

andLelary l^o^^ZT^ **? t ™ tUral 

nature); and their concern with .ZT . 7 « ro " nded ,n tlle «"™ee of 
Plato's and al.p 5 r«bi\Tre atm et „f th ^ "' T^ a8 e " denCed ta 
their attachment to ZTZl^^' " "T ^ "*««« *> 

new L^etd tnTt^a^rf , himSe,f * *«^*«g between the 
new science of cultul and to £ rT\ to iU8Ufying the need f ° r "» 

- ornate subjel^ o^ ^ ^^ ^" 


Ibn Khaldun 

observations about traditional political science which are not necessarily- 
called for as far as his immediate task is concerned. At first sight, these observa- 
tions seem to present traditional political science under unfavourable light, 
to suggest certain fundamental theoretical disagreements between ibn Khaldun 
and Muslim political philosophers, and to prove the superior character of the 
new science as compared to the traditional political science. Yet ibn Khaldun's 
own modest estimate of the "fruits" of the science of culture is a warning 
against accepting these conclusions at their face value. In order to explore 
his intention, we must first understand the issues involved. 

The central issue which ibn Khaldun repeatedly invokes in this connection 
is the proof of the "necessity" of prophecy, and of the prophetic religious 
Law, adduced by Muslim political philosophers. Upon the first reference to 
this issue, ibn Khaldun cites what is mentioned by wise men in their proof of 
the necessity of prophecies, what is mentioned in the fundamentals of juris- 
prudence ( Usui al-Fiqh) in proving the necessity of languages, and what the 
jurists (fuqaha') mention "in the justification of legal prescriptions through 
their purposes." 14 In all of these disciplines, the jurists attempt to present 
a natural proof for the necessity of a legal or conventional prescription, and 
they seem to argue as follows: men must co-operate in society, therefore 
they necessarily need a ruler who must be a prophet; men by nature need 
to express their intentions, therefore they necessarily need the easier method 
of doing this, which must be a language; men must preserve their species 
and their social life uncorrupted, therefore they must abstain from adultery, 
murder, and injustice. The necessity of prophecy thus appears to be based 
on the same kind of argument and, consequently, to have the same status, as 
the necessity of language, and of the injunctions against adultery, murder, 
and injustice. Now, all these have some basis in nature. But they cannot be 
traced directly or exclusively to nature ; and they are not produced by nature 
in a necessary manner. They are, rather, the product of human convention 
and law, or of a divine Law. That they are not, strictly speaking, natural or 
necessary, becomes evident when we consider the diversity of languages, and 
differences and conflicts among the various legal arrangements {including 
those claiming divine origin) in different communities. The mistake of these 
jurists consists in beginning with the nature of man and society, showing 
the need for some such conventions and laws, and concluding that this is 
sufficient proof of the exclusively natural and necessary character of con- 
ventions and laws. 

While the proof of the "necessity" of prophecy shares in this general mis- 
taken way of argumentation, it is in a class by itself, and we need to follow 
ibn Khaldun's refutation of it more closely. According to him, the philosophers 
begin with the demonstration of the necessity of a government and a ruler. 
This demonstration he accepts as valid and adopts as the first premise of 

1 Q. I, 63-64. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

his science. However, "The philosophers (faMsifah) make an addition to 
this demonstration when attempting to establish prophecy by rational argu- 
ment, and that it is a natural property of the human being. Thus they con- 
firm this demonstration [i.e., the ^dispensability of the ruler] up to its con- 
clusion and that humanity cannot escape being under restraining and reconcil- 
ing rule (hukm wddi'). Then they say, after that, 'That rule comes to be by 
a [divine or religious] Law {Shar') imposed by God and introduced by one 
[member] of the human species distinguished from them [i.e., the rest] by 
the special [properties] of His guidance with which God entrusts him in order 
that submission to him and acceptance from him take place ; so that ruling 
among them and on them be completed without disacknowledgment or [angry] 
reproach.' This proposition by the philosophers (fyukama') is, as you see, not 
demonstrable ; since existence and human life may become complete without 
that [Law and prophet] by [virtue of] what the ruler imposes by himself or 
by [virtue of] the [social] solidarity ('asabiyyah) by which he is enabled to 
conquer them [i.e., his subjects] and make them follow his path. Thus, the 
People of the Book and the followers of the prophets are few compared to 
the Magians who have no [revealed] Book ; for they [the latter] form the majori- 
ty of the inhabitants of the world. Despite that, they possessed States and 
monuments in addition to [simply] having lived; and they still have these 
to this epoch in the intemperate regions of the north and the south, in con- 
trast to human life in confusion and without a restraining and reconciling 
[ruler] at all; this is impossible. By this becomes plain to you their 
mistake concerning the obligatory [character] of prophecies, and that it [this 
obligation] is not rational; rather, it is apprehended by the Law, as is the 
doctrine of the ancestors of the community." 15 

On the surface ibn Khaldun's argument is extremely simple, if not naive. 
The supposed demonstration of the philosophers is based on the minor premise 
that every ruler must rule with a divine Law. 16 This is evidently false, since 
a ruler can rule by virtue of royal authority alone, and even a simpleton 
knows that there have been innumerable rulers without divine authority. 
This simple fact could not have escaped the notice of the philosophers whom 
ibn Khaldun calls "wise men," and the issue cannot be dismissed on this 

There are two possible philosophic approaches to the study of man and 
society: the first, which is characteristic of ibn Khaldun's science of culture, 
is through the natural sciences ; the second, which is the characteristic approach 
of the Greek and Muslim political philosophers, is through a consideration 
of the end of man. Since the end of man, his perfection or happiness, pre- 

15 Q.I, 72:7-73:5. 

16 Q. I, 345-46. 

supposes the understanding of the place of man within the cosmos of which 
he is a part, this latter approach comes after metaphysics or divine science 
(Him ilahi) in the order of investigation. 17 The first approach is based exclu- 
sively on natural science and does not admit any premises that cannot be 
demonstrated therein. It can, therefore, be properly called a "natural" science 
of politics. The second approach is based on metaphysics or the science of 
divine things and can, therefore, be called meta-natural or "divine" politics. 18 
The comprehensive works of ibn Sina, which ibn Khaldun specifically has 
in mind in discussing this issue, present us with two features significant for 
understanding ibn Khaldun's exposition. (1) They all include two discussions 
of political matters, the first coming at the end of the natural sciences (in 
the sections corresponding to Aristotle's Be. Anima), and the other at the end 
of the divince science. 19 Ibn Sina's works thus point to the fact that both 
"natural" and "divine" political sciences owe their origin to the philosophers. 
Yet in studying ibn Sina's "natural" version of political science, we come to 
realize the significant difference between him and ibn Khaldun: ibn Sina 
restricts himself here to the natural foundations of man's political life and 
does not proceed to develop a full-fledged science of society or politics on that 
foundation alone. He seems thus to suggest that these natural foundations 
are not sufficient for understanding the full scope of man's political life and 
cannot offer the proper directives concerning how he is to conduct himself 
as a political animal. Such an undertaking will have to wait till after the 
completion of divine science; or, as ibn Khaldun explains, it needs "additional" 
arguments which cannot be presented prior to the investigation of the world 

17 Ihm' ol-'Ulum (La statistique des sciences), ed. Osraan Amin (2nd ed., 
Cairo, Dar al-Fikr al-'Arabi, 1949), pp. 102ff. 

18 In al-Farabi's "Enumeration of the Sciences," political science (which includes 
the art of jurisprudence and the art of dialectical theology) comes at the end 
immediately following divine science. Following the same scheme, all of ibn Sina's 
comprehensive philosophical works relegate political science to the very end to be 
treated as an ancillary to divine science. This arrangement is based on the con- 
sideration that the subject of divine science includes the study of "spiritual" 
beings, and is, thus, in a position to correct the false opinions about them in the 
city, and that, for ibn Sina in particular, the "branches" ffuru') of divine science 
are concerned with the study of revelation, miracles, resurrection, and reward 
and punishment; cf. al-Farabi, Ihsa\ pp. 99-101; ibn Sina, Aqsam cd-'Ulum al- 
'Aqliyyah (The Parts of Rational Sciences) in Tis 1 RasaHl, Cairo, Ma|;ba'ah Hindiy- 
yah, 1326/1908, pp. 112-16. A political science concerned with the opinions and 
actions of a religious community must, therefore, follow the study of the principles 
of these opinions and actions in divine science. Ibn Khaldun, who clearly saw the 
close relation between divine science and the "divine" version of political philo- 
sophy, adopts, as we shall indicate, an equally critical attitude towards both. 

™ l Uyun, pp. 40-46, 59-60; ef. pp. 16-17; Isharat, pp. 119-37, 176-222; Najat, 
pp. 157-93, 284, 38: "Nafs," gkifa\pp. 157-268, "Siyasah," Shifa' ("La sociologie 
et la politique dans la philosophie d'Avicenne") ed. Mohammad Yusuf Musa 
("Memorial Avicenne" I), Cairo, Institute Francais d'Archeologie Orientale, 1952, 
pp. 8-27. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

and of the place of man within it. (2) Further, in his "Parts of Rational Scien- 
ces," ibn Sina specifies that the aim of the practical part of philosophy or 
wisdom is not the attainment of certainty about existents, but "perhaps" 
of opinions, and not opinions simply but opinions for the sake of realizing the 
good. 20 In addition, that part of political philosophy which deals with political 
governments studies all classes of governments, good and bad, those based 
on kingship as well as those based on prophecy and divine Laws. 21 Although 
political philosophy may favour the political government based on prophecy, 
it transcends any particular class of political arrangements. These issues, 
however, are not raised in the exposition of the "divine" version of political 
philosophy in his comprehensive philosophic works ; instead, he purports here 
to offer not a discussion of the total subject of political philosophy or the 
various classes of opinions and action in all political regimes, but what appears 
to be a rational justification, or the "obligatory" character, of a specific class 
of political regimes, i.e., that which is originated by a prophet-legislator. The 
final four chapters of the Shifd', for instance, indicate that ibn Sina would 
treat the proof of prophecy, and the prophet's call to God and the return to 
Him ; prayers and their utility in this world and the next ; the foundation 
of the city and the household, and legal prescriptions relating to them (discussed 
within the framework of prophetic legislation) ; and successors to the Prophet 
(Caliphate and Imamate), and other matters relating to governments and 
ethics. 22 The whole discussion is, thus, centred around prophecy and presupposes 
its "obligator}'" character. 

Ibn Khaldun's first and foremost observation on the total scope of the 
subject-matter of "divine" political science is that it is not natural (tablH) 
or necessary (daruri), by which he means the same thing and it is fundamentally 
this : Considering the natural constitution of man as a political animal, we do 
not find that revelation, divine Laws, and divine governments, and the con- 
cern with resurrection and reward and punishment, to be necessary conditions 
for his survival, for the formation of society, and for the continued existence . 
of both. Religion does not belong to those requirements that form the indis- 
pensable minimum for the existence and preservation of society; it is not 
the sufficient condition, nor even one of the sufficient conditions, required 
for social life in order that it may exist and continue. Man's natural constitu- 
tion and the character of society do not make it absolutely mandatory 
upon man to be a member of a religious community and to obey the prescrip- 
tions of a divine Law. 23 Given human nature, prophecy and revelation are 

20 Aqsam al-'Ulum, p. 105. 

21 Ibid., pp. 107-08. This philosophic discussion of the prophetic regime, according 
to ibn Sina, is contained in Plato's works on the nomoi. 

22 "Siyasah," Shifd', pp. 8ff. 

23 For a more detailed discussion of this problem, cf. Leo Strauss, "The Law 
of Reason in the Kuzari" in Persecution and the Art of Writing, Glencoe, Illinois, 
Free Press, 1952, pp. 95-141, and Natural Right and History, Chicago, the Uni- 
versity of Chicago Press, 1953, pp. 156-64. 


Ibn Khaldun 

possible phenomena. Supposing that a prophet does come and that he possesses, 
in addition, the ability to rule, to command obedience, and to legislate, there 
will come to exist a divine Law. And given certain climatic and other condi- 
tions, his Law may be followed and preserved. To be obeyed and preserved, 
this Law must include certain opinions, such as that prophecy is necessary. 
These opinions are legally "obligatory" or binding upon the followers of that 
Law; the source of this obligation is not human nature and the nature of 
society, or unaided human reason, but a specific divine revelation and a 
specific divine Law. Thus, what induces ibn Khaldun to reject the natural 
and necessary character of religion and divine Laws, and, consequently, of 
the whole subject-matter of "divine" political science, is not merely that 
divine government, like man-made language, and injunctions against adultery, 
murder, and injustice, is conventional or legal in character. 24 For, despite 
their conventional character, it could be shown that, unlike divine govern- 
ment, all the rest are necessary conditions for the existence and preservation 
of any society, 25 and that the authority of unaided human reason is sufficient 
to prove that. (Ibn Khaldun says, for instance, that the authority of human 
reason is "sufficient" for "forbidding injustice." 26 ) Divine government is not 
only a legal convention; it does not even belong to those legal conventional 
arrangements that form the indispensable minimum required for the existence 
and preservation of society and which can be said, therefore, to be natural 
and necessary conventions. 

Ibn Khaldun's second major observation is that the premises and, con- 
sequently, the conclusions of "divine" political science are not rationally 
demonstrable (burhani), i.e., unaided human reason cannot achieve certainty 
concerning such subjects as the obligatory character of divine revelation and 
the divine Law ; the necessity of believing in the opinions about God, resurrec- 
tion, and reward and punishment; or the necessity of performing the actions 
prescribed in a divine Law, such as worship. The authority for the obligatory 
character of these opinions and actions is the divine Law itself. Divine Laws, 
however, command and do not demonstrate (at least not rationally) the 
necessity of holding the opinions and of performing the actions commanded. 
So far as human reason is concerned, these commands remain undemonstrated, 
i.e., they continue to hold the status of belief or opinions. Whether these 
opinions are true or false, generally accepted or not, practically good and 
useful or bad and harmful, or whether they are preferable or objectionable, 
is not here the issue; rather, it is that the obligation (set up by those who 
pretend to have shown that these opinions are rationally obligatory) does 
not impose itself on human reason. The only obligation that seems to be 
convincing is the legal obligation set up by divine Laws. Unlike demonstrated 

24 Cf. above, pp. 966-67. 

25 Not that a particular language, etc., is necessary, but that some language 
s necessary. 

86 Q.I, 346:4-5. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
conclusions, undemonstrated opinions do not by themselves compel the assent 
of human reason; in order to be accepted, they need an additional force, 
which in this case is provided by divine Laws. 

We are now in a better position to understand the reason why ibn Khaldun 
distinguishes at the outset between his new science of culture, on the one 
hand, and the practical philosophic sciences, the legal sciences, and popular 
wisdom, on the other; and why, in discussing the six premises of the new 
science, he distinguishes between what can be demonstrated and what cannot 
be demonstrated within the science of nature. Only in the science of nature 
are we able to arrive at demonstrated conclusions about what is natural and 
necessary for man and society. The conclusions of all these other sciences are 
undemonstrated opinions. This is also the case with the conclusions of the 
divine science or the science of divine beings. The fact that "divine" political 
science is based on premises derived from divine science deprives all of its 
conclusions of their demonstrable character. This is also the reason why ibn 
Khaldun mentions rhetoric as the first of the practical philosophic sciences. 
Since the practical sciences deal with opinions, and opinions do not compel 
assent immediately, an art is needed which is capable of convincing men to 
accept certain opinions and to reject others. This is precisely the function of 
rhetoric. In the practical sciences, the philosophers do not follow the method 
of demonstration ; they are not, strictly speaking, philosophers but rhetoricians. 27 

Ibn Khaldun's critique of "divine" political science presents a curious 
paradox : it defends religion against the mistakes of theologians and it defends 
philosophy against the mistakes of philosophers. His defence of religion con- 
sists in establishing revelation and divine Laws as the exclusive source for 
beliefs in the substance of the doctrines relative to prophecy and divine govern- 
ment ; yet he objects to every kind of theology or the effort to prove these doc- 
trines rationally. His defence of philosophy consists in the bold assertion that, 
in as far as reason is concerned, the political doctrines purporting to support 
religion cannot claim a status higher than that of undemonstrated opinions, 
and he exposes the philosophers who claimed that they were presenting pro- 
perly a philosophical support or defence of religious doctrines, or had 
succeeded in turning philosophy into a rational theology. From this it appears 
that ibn Khaldun's critique is not directed against philosophy, but against 
theology; not against philosophers as philosophers, but against philosophers 
in their role as theologians, dialecticians, and rhetoricians. 

This critique is based on the distinction between religion or, more specifically, 
religious beliefs and practices based on a particular revelation and divine Law, 
and philosophy or, more specifically, the body of scientifically demonstrated 

' Cf. above, p. 965; Q. Ill, 73. 

Ibn Khaldun 

conclusions based on rational inquiry. It is characteristic of ibn Khaldun 
that he upholds the legitimacy of both religious knowledge and scientific 
philosophic knowledge in their proper spheres, and contests the theoretical 
legitimacy of all disciplines that occupy an ambivalent position between the 
two and profess to demonstrate their agreement. Such disciplines, which 
according to him belong to sophistry and rhetoric rather than either to religion 
or scientific philosophy, are primarily the dialectical theology of the Mutakal- 
limun and the political theology of the philosophers. 

Religiously, ibn Khaldun identifies himself with the early Muslims or the 
pious ancestors who rejected all attempts at rational justification of religious 
beliefs and practices as unnecessary, if not dangerous, "innovations." But 
since these pious ancestors were innocent of the philosophic sciences, they 
could not be considered his true precursors. Philosophically, he supports his 
position, not only on the basis of the requirements of scientific demonstration, 
but by invoking the authority of the philosophers who followed the method 
of verification (mufyaqqiqun) . He thus shows a predilection for pure religion 
and pure philosophy over against any kind of theology which is necessarily 
a confused mixture of both. 

It is noteworthy that in the crucial passage where ibn Khaldun criticizes 
the divine science and the political theology of the philosophers, he mentions 
al-Farabi and ibn Sina but not ibn Rushd- 28 Of Muslim philosophers, it was 
precisely ibn Rushd who (like ibn Khaldun) was a recognized religious judge 
(qddi) and a philosopher who criticized al-Farabi and ibn Sina for imitating 
the dialectical theologians, and who wrote the most celebrated treatise on 
religion and philosophy the main theme of which is the defence of the 
legitimacy of religion and philosophy in their proper spheres, and which is a 
devastating attack upon the combination of religion and philosophy in the 
form of theology. 29 It is not possible here to enter into the historical and 
doctrinal developments that led to ibn Rushd's new attitude towards theology. 
For our immediate purpose we need only note that in this decisive respect 
ibn Khaldun is following in the footsteps of one of his most illustrious Muslim 
predecessors. Therefore, his position could not be construed to be anti- 
philosophic or based on any lack of understanding of the intentions of 
al-Farabi and ibn Sina. To understand his specific reasons for criticizing 
them, we must now analyse his treatment of Muslim dialectical theology 
(Kalam), and of the divine science and political theology of the "philo- 

"Dialectical theology," says ibn Khaldun. "involves arguing for the beliefs 
of faith with rational proofs, and answering the innovators who deviate in 
[their] beliefs from the ways of the ancestors and the followers of orthodoxy." 30 

« Q. Ill, 213. 

» Fasl cd-Maqal (Traits decisif), ed. L. Gauthier, 3rd ed., Alger, Editions 
Carbonel, 1948, pp. 20ff. 
30 Q.III,27:l-3. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

The beliefs of faith consist of such things as the attributes of God, the truth 
of revelation and prophecy, the angels, the spirits, the jinn, resurrection, 
paradise, hell, etc. Unlike things that have rationally ascertainable natural 
causes, these are ambiguous matters, the reality of which reason cannot 
ascertain. Therefore, it must be left to the divinely-ordained legislator (the 
Prophet) to determine them and teach them. The general run of believers, 
like the deaf and the blind, must accept the authority of their fathers and 
teachers, and since they cannot establish the truth of these matters, they 
must follow the generally accepted opinions about them, based on the command 
of their prophet-legislator. 31 More important, however, is the fact that these 
beliefs are not theoretical assertions but part of a way of life within a system 
of divine government intended for the happiness of the believer. Their pur- 
pose is not mere knowledge or belief or assent or faith. Perfection, according 
to the legislator, consists of "perfect faith" or the habit firmly rooted through 
practical repetitive action (worship, obedience, and submissiveness), until 
believers possess the established attribute moulding their souls. Beliefs are 
not primarily intended to be known, but to "be possessed"; their purpose 
is not knowledge, but practical utility ; their end is not theoretical perfection, 
but the happiness promised by the legislator. 32 

The proper function of dialectical theology is to defend beliefs with rational 
arguments, but since this is not necessary for faith, it is only useful when 
these beliefs are endangered by innovators who attack them by the use of 
rational arguments. This happened in Muslim history with the rise of the 
Mu'tazilites, the Shi'ites, and other innovators. At that time, dialectical 
theology had a useful function to perform. Once innovators are suppressed 
(rational argument being one of the tools used in this fight), 33 dialectical 
theology has no further reason to exist; indeed it can be harmful, since it 
gives the impression that rational arguments are somehow necessary for 
accepting beliefs. This is false both because (except in the case of rational 
attacks upon them) beliefs do not need rational support and because the 
rational support offered by dialectical theology is only dialectical, sophistical, 
or rhetorical (i.e., based on common opinions); it has no scientific value. 34 

While discussing the emergency of dangerous innovations, ibn Khaldun 
notices a certain identity of origin and a certain parallelism between the 
opinions of the innovators (the Mu'tazilites and the Shi'ites) and the writings 
and opinions of the philosophers "which are in general at variance with the 
beliefs of the divine Law." 35 He indicates that innovators in Islam studied 
the works of the philosophers. But it seems also that the philosophers in turn 
took notice (e.g., in their rational proof of the obligation of having successors 

31 Q. Ill, 29-30. 

32 Q. Ill, 31-35. 

33 Al-Farabi, Ihsa', pp. 108-13. 

34 Q. Ill, 40-42,*45-49. 

35 Q. Ill, 40, cf. also 41. 

Ibn Khaldun 

or Caliphs to the Prophet) 38 of the opinions of the innovators or of the Mu'ta- 
zilite and Shi'ite theologians, and presented identical or similar opinions ; or 
that philosophers presented themselves to the Muslim community in the guise 
of Muslim theologians purporting to give a rational support for certain Muslim 
beliefs, and more specifically of those beliefs, held by the heterodox minorities, 
which were closer to their own views. Be this as it may, ibn Khaldun was 
also aware of the radical difference between the content and the ultimate 
intentions of the views of the philosophers and those of theologians of all 
shades. That is why he devotes special chapters to the exposition of divine 
science and of the philosophy centred around this divine science. 

In contradistinction to all dialectical theologians, philosophers suppose 
that "all" existence can be apprehended by "mental contemplation and 
rational syllogisms." 37 It thus appears that they include all "spiritual" beings 
in their contemplation; hence, they purport to give (in divine science) a 
rational, syllogistic knowledge of God, the soul, resurrection, etc., or of the 
religious beliefs revealed and commanded by the prophet-legislators. Unlike 
dialectical theologians, however, philosophers do not begin with religious 
beliefs as revealed by the prophets and attempt to elucidate them or support 
them rationally ; their position is that reason can know these matters indepen- 
dently of revelation. Being philosophers, they also believe that the rational 
syllogistic knowledge of these matters is superior to divine revelation and, 
therefore, must be made the final judge of the correctness of revelation, or 
that "the rectification of the beliefs of faith is through contemplation, not 
through tradition [hearing: sam 1 ], for they [i.e., the beliefs] belong to the 
apprehensions of the intellect." 38 

But philosophy does not content itself with presenting theoretical know- 
ledge as a superior alternative to religious belief; philosophy is also a way 
of life, and the philosophers contend that true happiness consists of complete 
theoretical knowledge, or "the apprehension of all existents . . . through this 
contemplation and those demonstrations," together with the improvement of 
the soul and the acquisition of the virtues (all of which can be known and 
established by the sole agency of reason). In contrast to the religious way 
of life and the happiness promised by the prophet-legislators, this philosophic 
way of life and the happiness of the philosopher "is possible for the human being 
even if no divine Law comes down." For the lovers of wisdom, the blessed 
life means theoretical knowledge and living according to the dictates of reason, 
and eternal suffering means ignorance. 39 

36 Q. I, 345-46. 

37 Q, III, 210:2-5, 211:15-17. 

38 Q. Ill, 210:5-6. Here we see another similarity between the philosophers 
and the innovating theologians (the Mu'tazilites): the latter sought to "under- 
stand" and "interpret" religious beliefs through reason. 

39 Q. Ill, 210:7-8, 211-12. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

In presenting the content of their theoretical knowledge and of their way 
of life, however, philosophers have committed grave errors, not only from 
the more apparent standpoint of religion, but also from the standpoint of 
philosophy itself. Philosophy says that scientific knowledge has to conform 
to certain conditions and that scientific demonstration is possible only within 
the limited range of what can be humanly experienced and known. Yet philo- 
sophers in general, and al-Farabi and ibn Sina in particular, seem to speak 
about all sorts of "spiritual" matters: the One, the source of all beings; the 
emanation of beings ; the states of the soul after departing from the body, its 
return to the source, joining the active intellect, and resurrection. Further, 
they present these matters in a manner suggesting that they are the philo- 
sophical parallels to, or the true meaning of, religious beliefs, and even "that 
the joy resulting from this apprehension is identical with the happiness pro- 
mised [by the Prophet-legislator]." 40 Yet their great master, Plato, had said: 
"As to divine (things), no certainty can be realized concerning them; rather, 
they are spoken of in accordance with what is most fitting and proper" — he 
means "opinion." 41 Since Plato was indeed the great master of al-Farabi and 
ibn Sina in their exposition of divine matters, and the Timaeus** and the 
Laws were their models, we are faced again with the question why the philo- 
sophers, including Plato, should find it necessary or useful to speak pro- 
fusely concerning matters of which one cannot achieve certainty ; why, having 
done this, al-Farabi and ibn Sina did not indicate clearly that they were only 
giving the most fitting and proper "opinions" about these matters; and why, 
finally, they gave the impression that these opinions were the equivalents 
or the fitting interpretations of religious beliefs — in short, why they pre- 
sented fitting opinions in the guise of demonstrated conclusions on religious 
beliefs. The exploration of this theme is an indispensable prerequisite for 
a sound understanding of Muslim political philosophy. For the present, we 
shall restrict ourselves to the following observations with the intention of 
clarifying ibn Khaldun's position. 

In his section on "divine science" ('Urn ilahi) in the "Enumeration of the 
Sciences," al-Farabi divides this science into three parts: the first two examine 
existents as existents, and the principles of the demonstrations of particular 
theoretical sciences (logic, natural science, and mathematics), respectively. 
The third part examines incorporeal existents, their number, order, and pro- 
gression to the most perfect One; explains the attributes of this last and 
perfect incorporeal existent; explains "that this which has these attributes 
is the one which must be believed to be God"; makes known the descending 
order of existents beginning with Him ; explains that the order of existents 
involves no injustice or irregularity; and finally "sets out to refute corrupt 

40 Q. Ill, 121, 213-18. 

41 Q. Ill, 215:12-13. 

42 The quotation from Plato apparently refers to Timaeus 28 C; cf. Rosenthal's 
translation of Q, Vol. Ill, p. 252, n. 1029. 


Ibn Khaldun 

opinions" about God. 43 The relation between political science, treated by 
him in the following chapter, and this last function of divine science is 
not immediately clear, although the inclusion of dialectical theology (Kaldm) 
as part of political science leaves no doubt as to the political importance of 
the opinions of the citizens concerning incorporeal existents. In his strictly 
political writings, on the other hand, he does set up a detailed theology for 
the inhabitants of the city. 44 But here he does not speak about the relation 
between this theology and the examinations conducted in divine science. We 
conclude that al-Farabi leaves the problem of the relation between divine 
science and political theology set up for the inhabitants of the city ambi- 
guous, at least in his more public writings. 

At first sight, ibn Sina appears to have followed a different course. In all 
of his works that deal with the whole subject-matter of philosophy, he 
presents the conclusions arrived at in divine science as making "obligatory" the 
existence of the prophets, the legislation of divine Laws, and even the contents 
of the beliefs and practices legislated in these Laws. 45 It is true, as ibn Khaldun 
observes, that ibn Sina begins his second version of political science with a 
recapitulation of the conclusions arrived at in the first (natural) version of 
political science and seems to be building the "obligatory" character of pro- 
phecy and divine Laws upon that natural basis; but ibn Khaldun correctly 
notes that the "proof" of the obligatory character of prophecy and divine 
Laws is not based on the nature of man as explained in De Anima, but 
on the additional examinations conducted thereafter in divine science. 

Ibn Sina's presentation of his political theology is indeed based on rational 
considerations, but not on the rational consideration of the nature of man 
as in De Anima; rather, it is based on the attributes of "the First Cause and 
the angels." Being what divine science has presented the First Cause and 
the angels to be, it is obligatory that they should send prophets and divine 
Laws. 46 Since divine science is a rational science, the obligation set up here 
seems to be rational, not legal; God and the angels are not bound by Laws 
but by their very nature. Thus, ibn Khaldun is again justified in interpreting 
this rational obligation to mean natural necessity, and in wondering why God 
and the angels do not uniformly act in accordance with what is purported 
to be their very nature, why they have not fulfilled their obligation to the 
overwhelming majority of mankind, and why only on rare occasions have 
there been prophets and divine Laws. 

Ibn Sina seems indeed to argue in the context that the realization of pro- 
phecy is necessary as a preparation for the existence of the "good order" 

43 Ihsa\ pp. 99-101. 

44 Cf.*, e.g., Ara' AM al-Madlnat al-FOdHah ("Der Musterstaat"), ed.Fr.Dieterici, 
Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1895, pp. 5ff. 

45 "Siyasah," Shifa\ pp. 12ff. Consider the frequent repetition of wa-yajibu 
(and it is obligarory) throughout the text. 

4 « Ibid., p. 9:8 and passim. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

or of man's possible perfection, a perfection which he assumes to have become 
evident as the proper end of man in divine science, but this raises the further 
question whether prophecy and divine Laws, as they are known to exist, 
are preparations for this type of perfection. We are, thus, forced to note that 
despite the apparent clarity of his presentation of the relation between his 
divine science and his political theology, ibn Sina leaves many questions un- 
answered, or that his presentation is as ambiguous as that of al-Farabi. There 
is, thus, ample justification for ibn Khaldun's criticism. Following Plato, he 
explains that these ambiguities follow from the fact that in divine science 
itself the philosophers have not attained, or at least have not presented, certain 
knowledge, but only fair and fitting opinions. Therefore, their political theology 
has the same character. 

Ibn Khaldun raises this issue in the most acute and critical fashion; he 
reveals that the philosophers, in presenting fair opinions and undemonstrated 
conclusions concerning the way to theoretical perfection and happiness, could 
only defend them by means of dialectical and rhetorical arguments; and, 
though beginning with the opposite extreme of the starting-point of the 
dialectical theologians, they do in fact assume the same role as the dialectical 
theologians when presenting and defending these opinions. In taking his 
bearings on these matters, ibn Khaldun distinguishes between philosophy pro- 
perly so-called, i.e., the philosophic sciences which do in fact pursue the 
method of demonstration and about the conclusions of which, when properly 
arrived at, there can be no doubt, and philosophic theology (the greater por- 
tion of divine science) and political theology (or "divine" political science) 
which are in fact the philosophic versions of dialectical theology (Kalam). ■ 
He accepts the former (i.e., logic, natural science, mathematics), while rejecting 
the latter." 

Ibn Khaldun's theoretical reason for this rejection is justified but cannot 
be considered sufficient. For, granting that ultimately the theology and 
divine political science of the philosophers are in fact likely images and opinions 
presented in the guise of rational beliefs, it remains to be shown that these 
images and opinions are not only contrary but in fact inferior to the religious 
beliefs of the community in which they were being propagated. From the 
standpoint of demonstrative science, religious beliefs and philosophic or rational 
opinions enjoy the same status — they are all opinions. The quotation from 
Plato, however, indicates that opinions are not all alike: they can be 
distinguished as being more or less fitting or proper. The philosophers hold, 
in effect, that their rational opinions are more fitting or proper than religious 
beliefs, and that their way of life, their virtues, and their happiness are more 
truly such than the way of life, the virtues, and the happiness, pursued on 
the basis of divine Laws. Ibn Khaldun is silent on this subject; he does not 
attempt a direct refutation of this contention. 

' Q. Ill, 212-20. 

Ibn Khaldun 

Instead, he explains that the philosophic way of life contradicts the religious 
way of life which is based on faith and obedience to the commands of a 
prophet-legislator; that the content of the "promised" happiness is radically 
different from the content of the happiness pursued by the philosopher; and 
that the attempt to equate or harmonize the two is an impossible task 
and one which is fraught with danger for the religious community — it breaks 
the protective wall around it, leads to doubts and scepticism about the beliefs 
of faith, and turns the faithful away from the tasks appointed for them by 
their prophet-legislator. The philosophers were not justified in preaching their 
opinions to the Islamic community. Whatever their intention about reforming 
the beliefs of the Islamic community might have been, they had only sown 
confusion in the minds of the faithful, and led to the emergence of mistaken 
notions about the distinct purposes of religion and of philosophy. Their own 
way of life and their own happiness are of no concern to the religious com- 
munity; and since they assert they can pursue this way of life and attain 
happiness regardless of the existence of divine Laws and of a religious 
community, they had no compelling reason to sow the seeds of confusion and 
dissension within the religious community and endanger its peace. 

Political life, as practised in all human communities, has to take into 
account the nature of all men, and should be directed to the common good 
of the multitude. This requires a ruler and a law based on the rational under- 
standing of their common needs and interests in this world, or a divine Law 
based on their common good in this world and the next. But in every case, 
it is mandatory that the ruler and the law should set up opinions and actions in 
the form of commands to be obeyed without qualification. The philosophic life, 
however, transcends all established laws. The real "meaning" of political 
science, "according to the wise men" themselves, is to lead a way of life in 
which "they dispense with rulers altogether"; their "virtuous city" is not an 
association of men subject to commands serving their common interest, and 
they talk about it as a supposed or hypothetical city whose realization is 
highly improbable. 48 The philosophic life is then radically different from the 
ordinary polititcal life of the citizens. It requires rare natures and rarely 
accomplished arts. The philosopher is essentially a solitary being, and the 
best he can hope for are few kindred spirits within a vast majority of men 
leading different ways of life and pursuing different ends. Since he needs to 
live in a political community, ibn Khaldun offers him this opportunity, but 
within clearly defined limits : he is not to interfere in the political life of the 
community in his capacity as a philosopher, not to attempt to reform the 
opinions of this community, not to communicate his opinions or propagate 
his way of life among the multitude, and he is to relinquish his role as a 
theologian and as a divine politician. He should restrict himself publicly to 
practising the demonstrative sciences (logic, natural science, mathematics) 

8 Q. II, 127. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

and the useful arts (e.g., medicine, music, and jurisprudence). But, above 
all, he should, like ibn Khaldun, uphold in no uncertain terms the Law of 
his community and obey it. The philosopher must present himself to his 
community in the guise of an ordinary citizen. 

For certain thinkers, polemic is a method of examination and investigation, 
a way of entering into a dialogue with their predecessors, and a means of 
uncovering what lies behind or beyond the garb with which their predecessors 
chose to clothe their thought or the manner in which they expressed it. When, 
in addition, this polemic is presented to the reader to draw his attention to 
the theoretical difficulties encountered by the author and his proposed direc- 
tion for finding a solution, and to an audience which the author intends to 
convince to accept or reject certain opinions or a course of action, the polemic 
necessarily gains a formal complexity difficult to comprehend without a 
sustained attention to the diverse, and perhaps conflicting, purposes which 
it is designed to serve. Ibn Khaldun's polemic against ibn Sina is an instructive 

Muslim philosophers, dialectical theologians, and mystics, like the jurists, 
the pious leaders of the community, and the common run of Muslims, seem 
to accept the superior character of the opinions and actions legislated by 
prophets in general and their own Prophet in particular. The unsophisticated 
Muslim believes in the opinions of the Prophet and performs the actions 
commanded by him because of his faith in their divine origin, his expectation 
of "rewards, and his fear of punishment in the world to come; the pious 
leaders of the community defend and promote, by exhortation, example, and 
threat of punishment, communal obedience and devotion to the beliefs and the 
way of life of their community; the jurists formulate and elaborate the 
prescriptions of the Law of their community ; the mystics devote themselves 
to practical exercises designed to facilitate the institution of the verities beyond 
the beliefs and legal prescriptions designed for the common run of Muslims; 
the dialectical theologians protect the beliefs and the ways of life of their 
community against rational doubts and attacks; and the philosophers attempt 
to present an additional rational ground for the coming of the prophet and 
the setting up of the opinions and actions he commands. Ibn Khaldun, too, 
presents himself as the defender of Muslim beliefs and the Muslim way of 
life. But, instead of choosing to join the apparent consensus of all the parts of 
the community, or to re-establish such a consensus where it is lacking through 
harmonizing apparently conflicting views, he labours to make implicit conflicts 
explicit, to show that the apparent consensus conceals some fundamental 
differences, and to intensify these conflicts and differences by a show of 
vigorous partisanship. He is the partisan fighting for the simple, unsophisticated 
beliefs and way of life of the common run of Muslims, and for the undiluted, 


Ibn Khaldun 

unexplained, and unsupported faith, against the useless and dangerous efforts 
of mystics, dialectical theologians, and philosophers, to defend, explain, and 
support Islam. What were the fruits of the victory, so intensely coveted by him ? 

On the scientific and theoretical plane his immediate aim is to disentangle 
the confusion between dialectical theology, mysticism, and philosophy. This 
confusion or mixture (khalt). as we learn from his account, reigned in these 
disciplines in his time ; and those primarily responsible for it were the "modern" 
school of dialectical theology and the later extreme rational mystics. 49 This 
objective is achieved through the reassertion of the legal character of dialectical 
theology and mysticism. Both must accept the beliefs and the way of life of 
the community as unquestionable basic axioms; they should make no preten- 
sion to extra-legal or properly rational knowledge of the nature of things: 
dialectical theology is to restrict itself to the defence of the beliefs and prac- 
tices of the community when these are questioned; and mystics should keep 
their supposedly intuitive achievements to themselves. Since this confusion 
has been harmful to philosophy (it was in danger of losing its distinctive 
character and of becoming a tool of dialectical theology and mystical exercises), 
philosophers should not contribute to it by presenting themselves to non- 
philosophers in the guise of dialectical theologians and mystics, as ibn Sina 
had done: philosophy is to exercise greater circumspection. 

What induced the philosophers to present a rational support for prophecy 
and divine Laws was no doubt the realization that a community living in 
accordance with such Laws is superior to other communities — to communities 
without God or gods, without concern for the welfare of the soul, and with- 
out hope of a life to come. This has a demonstrative rational foundation (it 
is shown in the science of nature that the soul is higher than the body), and 
it is at the basis of ibn Khaldun's division of regimes into "rational regimes" 
and "regimes of Law." But to say that the soul is higher than the body, 
that prophecy is possible, and that a regime of divine Law is higher than a 
regime without a divine Law; and to say that prophecy and prophetic Laws 
are obligatory, or that reason can prove or support the commands, the beliefs, 
and the virtues, set up by a legislator — these are two radically different things: 
the former set of propositions has solid support in the investigation of the 
nature of man and society; the latter has no such support. 

A strictly natural, rational, and demonstrative approach to man and 
society is then faced with the dilemma that, while it can attain certainty 
about the necessity of society, the need for a ruler, and the preservation 
of peace through a minimal practice of justice, it can attain no such certainty 
about morality, virtues, or rules of conduct. Morality and virtues of 
character are not, strictly speaking, natural or necessary; they have no 
natural basis, no ground in nature. There is not a single universally valid 
rule of conduct. Rational morality has no secure foundation or justification 

1 Q. Ill, 121-24. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

in nature, and rational moral laws are not essential to man's nature or to 
the nature of society. 50 There can, consequently, be no theoretical science of 
ethics or politics except in the extremely limited sense developed by ibn 
Khaldun in his science of culture. But although not simply natural, rational, 
and universal, morality, virtues, and general rules of conduct are not 
simply against nature. Society, to flourish and to be preserved, requires the 
common pursuit of practical ends, and these require in turn a morality and 
virtues readily accepted and commonly agreed upon by all, the majority 
or the better part of society. This is not the morality of the philosopher. The 
philosopher sees human perfection in theoretical knowledge. Theoretical 
activity has its own immediate reward. The rewards of the practice of 
moral virtues, in contrast, are neither evident nor immediate. They must be 
based on less evident rewards, such as glory or honour, or future rewards, 
such as the happiness promised to the just and the virtuous in the world 
to come. 

The philosophic study of ethics and politics, if it is intended to go beyond 
the perfection and the happiness reserved for the philosopher and possible 
only through the philosophic way of life or the life of theoretical activity, 
has to assume the character of a practical discipline and to have as its object 
the generally acceptable opinions about goodness and happiness, e.g., that 
moderation is good, that the pleasures of the soul are superior to the pleasures 
of the body, or that the future rewards of virtue are preferable to the immediate 
rewards of vice. The aim of such a practical philosophy, however, is not 
knowledge, but action, i.e., the practical pursuit and realization of the good. 
Yet philosophy, since it does not rule in cities, lacks the practical implementa- 
tion of what it considers fair and fitting ; therefore, the need for a ruler, a 
legislator, a law, and a tradition as instruments for the execution of moral 
duties and obligations. It is thus not philosophy, but the legislator, the legal 
prescriptions, and the embodiment of the law in the traditional way of life 
of the community that are the efficient cause which forces the citizens to 
lead a virtuous way of life. The law, and not practical philosophy or reason, 
is what redeems that lack of ground or necessity in nature: it supplies the 
justification, the obligation, and the authority that compel the citizens to 
hold fast to fair and fitting opinions entailing the renunciation of their natural 
and compelling desires which opinion alone is unable to achieve. Divine Laws 
revealed to prophet-legislators have the additional force of being based on 
the belief in their divine origin, in the overpowering will of God, and in the 
certainty of the rewards and punishments in the world to come ; they are thus 

50 Since the attack of al-Ghazali and ibn Rushd on ibn Sina, the latter's star 
declined, especially in western Islam. To attack ibn Sina was fashionable, not 
only in theological, but in philosophical circles as well. The significance of ibn 
Khaldun's attack, however, consists in uncovering those fundamental, bitter, and 
practically dangerous philosophical truths which philosophers before him, pre- 
cisely because they identified themselves with the philosophers, could not utter. 

the most efficient laws and offer the most compelling ground for accepting 
as valid what cannot be demonstrated by nature and reason. 

The attempt to offer a natural and rational explanation of the beliefs 
embodied in these Laws, as practised by dialectical theology, mysticism, and 
philosophy, is unwise and dangerous. It may, in certain cases, strengthen 
the faith of the believers in the commands of a divine Law, but it may also 
weaken that faith by bringing to light certain discrepancies between these 
commands and what is rationally most fitting and proper. Since, ultimately, 
there is no naturally or rationally demonstrative and compelling ground for 
these commands, the multitude will be made aware of this fact and this will 
lead to the loss of unquestioned faith in them; and since the multitude are 
incapable of knowing or pursuing the human perfection attainable by 
theoretical activity, they will pursue sham and pseudo-scientific activities: the 
citizens will lose their civic or religious virtues without finding the happiness 
reserved for the true philosopher. 

Ibn Khaldun's theoretical consideration of the nature of man and society 
thus results in a practical teaching aimed at the protection of the Muslim 
religious community and its divine Law against the confusion and disruption 
resulting from the vulgarization of philosophy. This practical teaching is 
founded on the consideration of the respective character of rational morality 
and the Law, but in recommending it to the Muslims of his time, ibn Khaldun 
supports it by the more acceptable authority of the Prophet, the pious an- 
cestors, and the consensus of the leaders of the community, i.e., he presents 
it as a legal injunction. Whatever the theoretical status of his critique of the 
social role of philosophy may be, his practical recommendation to the faithful 
must be obeyed because of its legal character. 

Ibn Khaldun did not consider the critical issue for the Muslim community 
of his time to be the rational justification or support of its divine Law. Indeed, 
he thought that this issue was a luxury which his community could not afford 
because it was faced with problems that involved its very existence. Long 
periods of cultural decline and disintegration were threatening to dissolve the 
fabric of society. What the community and its leaders needed most was 
clarity concerning the elementary and natural foundations of human associa- 
tion or culture and the understanding of the natural and necessary conditions 
without which no society can exist at all. Muslims had for centuries lived as 
members of a religious community under the aegis of the divine Law until 
they came to forget other forms of social life and the fact that religion 
and the Law cannot continue to exist except when based on a solid foundation 
of social solidarity, royal authority, and other indispensable natural conditions. 
The Prophet and the early Muslims were clearly aware of that and acted 
accordingly. But in ibn Khaldun's time, this was no more the case. There- 
fore, he set out to teach his compatriots and co-religionists the telling lessons 
of history; and his new science of culture and his investigation of the natural 
basis of political life within this science were intended to explain to his readers 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

those elementary, indispensable natural conditions which Muslims and their 
rulers need to consider if they are to succeed in preserving their religious 
community and divine Law. They may not need philosophy to explain and 
support their religion and Law, but they are in desperate need of it for under- 
standing the natural foundation of their religion and Law, and this in turn 
is an indispensable condition for preserving their way of life. 


Al-Ffirabi, Talkhis Nawamis Aflatun ("Compendium Legum Platonis"), ed. Fran- 
ciscus Gabrieli, The Warburg Institute, London, 1952; Ihsa 1 al~ l Ulum (Lastatistique 
des sciences), ed. Osman Amin, Dar al-Fikr al-'Arabi, Cairo, 1949; Ara' Ahl al- 
Madinat cA-Fadttah, Brill, Leiden, 1895; ibn Sina, Aqsam al- l Ulum al-'Aqliyyah, 
Mafcba'ahHindiyyah, Cairo, 1326/1908; ibn Rushd, Fast ed-MagOl, ed. L. Gauthier; 
M-uqaddimat Ibn Khaldun, ed. Fj. M. Quatremere, Paris, 1858; Muhsin Mahdi, Ibn 
Khaldun's Philosophy of History, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1957. 


(Covering Both the Early and the Later Centuries) 
Part 1. Language and Literature 

Chapter L 



Let us imagine an Arab Bedouin riding his camel on frequent long journeys 
across lonely deserts. While the rhythmic beating of the padded hoofs on soft 
sand breaks the stillness of the air, the rider is sunk deep in recollections of 
his own past. As he feels excited to share his mood with his "two companions 
and fellow-travellers," there is nothing more natural than that he should 
start chanting in unison with the movement which has the sole possession 
of his entire perception. This unsophisticated outpouring of one's heart in 
response to an occasional urge took the form of rajaz — the simple iambic 
alternation of harakah (moved or vocalized) and sukun (quiescent consonant) 
corresponding to the alternation in the lifting and lowering of the camel's 
feet. (Cf. the khabab in which the pattern of alternation corresponds to the 
pace of the horse.) The observation of the effects of the "song" induced a 
deliberate practice to beguile the man and quicken the animal. As the practice 
grew and attracted talent, formalities accumulated by common taste and 
general acceptance, giving rise to the art of poetry. The art was not slow to 
create for itself forms much more varied and complex than the original rajaz. 
About the middle of the second/eighth century when al-Khalil scrutinized 
the structure of Arabic poetry according to the quantitative measure suggested 
to him by the different tones on the rebound of the smith's hammer (just 
akin to the camel's tread) he admirably reduced it to a system of prosody 
consisting of sixteen metrical forms. Some foreign influence is not precluded 
from the development of some of these standard Arabic forms, all of which, 
of course, did not, and could not, have an equal measure of antiquity or 
popularity. What is remarkable is that this system of prosody sufficed to 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

serve as the hard core of future indigenous development as well as assimilation 
of foreign models up to the present day. 

By the last quarter of the fifth century A.D. when we get our first yet full 
acquaintance with Arabic poetry, myriads of tribes hailing from different 
quarters of the country had commingled sufficiently at commercial-cum- 
literary fairs, e.g., that of *Ukaz, religious such as at Mecca, and cultural as 
that at Hirah, to evolve a common language and widely appreciated norms 
and forms of artistic composition, though, naturally enough, they exhibited 
peculiarities of usage in speech. This common literary medium which developed 
out of the North Arabic, coinciding with the steady decline of the economic, 
political and cultural influence of the South, was leavened mainly in Hirah 
with the accompaniments of material and religious civilization as augmented 
with currents— Judaic, Christian, and Graeco-Roman— from the opposite end 
of the Northern Desert. Generally speaking, it was precise to finesse so far 
as Bedouin life and environment were concerned, but lacked the facility for 
conveying abstract ideas and general concepts. However, it possessed, by 
the very nature of its being a compromise between various dialects, an immense 
wealth of synonyms together with ample resources of rhyme and assonance 
inherent in its schematic morphology. Thus aaj' (rhyme) came to be the 
first and natural form of artistic composition prompted by the instinct 
for symmetry and balance in the structure of short, compact sentences spe- 
cially designed for intonation and oral transmission without being committed 
to writing. The saf existed before metre; the evolution of metrical forms 
only pushed it to the end of a verse under the name of qdfiyah. It is 
sometimes overlooked that the qdfiyah constituted an essential element— 
and not an additional, far less artificial, embellishment in the structure of 
Arabic poetry. In other words, verse without qdfiyah has been unknown in 
Arabic during its infancy as much as in its youth and old age. As we shall 
see later, so long as there was healthy development, any tendency on the 
part of the qafiyah to rigidity and monotony was checked in due time by 
adequate adaptation to the requirements of the theme (vide the evolution of 
muzdamj and musammat). In the period of decadence it was not sheer con- 
servatism but a deep realization of its essential worth, which caused arti- 
ficiality to be preferred to freedom. The positive function of the qdfiyah in 
laying down rails, so to say, for the movement of thought, is demonstrated 
by the spontaneous rush of the imagination of the audience to the end— almost 
the entire later half— of a line ahead of actual recitation by the poet. 1 Such 
a thrilling experience of effective communion between the poet and his 
audience is in no way rare wherever Arabic poetry (or Persian or Urdu poetry 
for that matter) is recited even today. This is quite apart from the practi- 
cal utility of the qdfiyah in helping memorization as alluded to before. 

i Note the definition by ibn Qutaibah of a born poet as "the one who indicates 
to you the end of a verse in the very beginning of it, and the qafiyah in the jatihah 
(opening word) itself." Al-Shi'r w-al- -SAw'ara' ', Cairo, 1367/1947, I, p. 36. 

Arabic Literature : Poetic and Prose Forms 

In the sociological fabric of the pre-Islamic time the poet occupied a very 
high and influential position. The popular mind was impressed so deeply 
with the efficacy of bis art that it believed him to be in communion with 
some supernatural source vaguely identified with a jinnee or a devil. But the 
conception about his" art was the same as about the skill of a horseman ; it 
had to be consecrated entirely to the cause of the solidarity and the ascendancy 
of the tribe. The poet had a task irrevocably assigned to him, which was to 
act the spokesman and the counsel on behalf of the tribe. Hence he was 
expected to specialize in a knowledge of the tribal saga supporting the cause 
for his clients and against their rivals. 2 In short, poetry was appreciated 
primarily as a weapon of offence and defence in the struggle of tribes against 
tribes; its function was to commemorate the glories of the poet's own 
tribe, exalt its achievements in war and peace, and embolden it against the 
other tribes by holding them to scorn. There was little room for the personality 
of the poet to detach itself even for a while from the interests and the fortune 
of the tribe. 

Naturally enough, the motifs of pre-Islamic poetry sprang fundamentally 
from the spirit of the jahillyyah — the ignorance of a moral code of conduct 
characterized by a strong sense of tribal solidarity based on blood kinship, 
and highly volatile passions cramped within stinted sympathies and primary 
selfish impulses. 3 Thus, the two oldest kinds of verse were the hijd" (satire) 
and the fakhr (self-glorification) with the keynote of the hamas or desperate 
pursuit of unbridled aggression. True, the nasib (erotic verse) also must have had 
an independent form in the oldest time but all the same it could not have occupied 
a position other than the subsidiary one which is assigned to it in the scheme 
of the qasidah. After all, the theme of love had no bearing on the security of 
the tribe. The very reason that its interest was human and universal, i.e., 
not peculiar to the tribe, was enough to render it inconsequential. 

Leaving aside the hijd', which has throughout maintained its independent 
form, the fakhr in its kindred form of madih (eulogy) came to assume the 
pivotal position in the structure of the qasidah, which was devised specially 
to rope in the nasib and many other minor forms of occasional verse to sub- 
serve it. This "loose-knitting" of the diverse kinds into a rigidly con- 
ventional structure seems to have come into vogue not long before our earliest 
acquaintance with Arabic poetry, i.e., about 125 years before Islam. 4 The 

2 It was perhaps on account of this special knowledge that he was called shaHr, 
i.e., the "kenner," who knew better than others. There is, however, another view 
which traces the word to its Hebrew counterpart meaning "chanting" and "sing- 
ing." Anyhow, the poet only knew and sang whereas the authority for taking deci- 
sions and giving judgments rested with another class known as the hukkarn, 
Fajr al-Islam, p. 56. 

3 The schooling of the impulses through hudud Allah (limits of the Sacred Law) 
pinpoints the difference between the jahillyyah and Islam. 

4 Consistently with the Arab habit of ascribing long, gradual developments to 
particular persons, the innovation of the qasidah is said to have originated with 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

order in the composition of the qasldah is invariably as follows. First comes 
the nasib by way of a prelude; second, the modify as the main part; and, 
third, the khatimah (epilogue) which is mostly didactic. A certain proportion 
was observed particularly between the first two parts on the principle that 
the nasib should neither overshadow the modify nor pass without fulfilling its 
function of catching the ear of the audience for the latter. 

The Nasib. — Usually the poet pictures himself as confronting, in the course 
of his journeys to and from, the remains of the encampment which once had 
been the scene of his love. This gives him the opportunity to depict with 
remarkable pathos the scene of separation and recollect in moving terms the 
charms of the beloved and the pleasures of her company in the past. The 
physical charms are dwelt upon with much gusto and not a little sensuous- 
ness. The discreteness of the Arab mind is amply shown in concentration on 
individual parts of the body one by one. To take just one typical instance, 
the Arab poet has a long breath in expatiating on the saliva — its purity, 
coolness, freshness, and fragrance like that of "early morning rain collected 
in a clear stony pond" — which nectar he would suck, draught after draught, 
with the zest of a drunkard in order to convey the meaning of the simple 
word "kiss." A life free from hard work is idealized for its effect in promoting 
feminine delicacy and untarnished complexion. To stay behind the curtains, 
well protected from the rigours of the weather, and jealously guarded in the 
manner of "the delicate shell of an egg under the feathers" was the vision 
which enthralled the heart of a young damsel. Qualities of heart, particularly 
modesty, gentleness of manners, friendliness towards neighbours, and mirth- 
ful coquetry in the company of the lover, are also highly appreciated but 
only as adjuncts of physical beauty. Having perforce to suffer long spans of 
solitude due to unsettled life, the Bedouin acquired high sensitivity to any 
stimulus to his memory. 6 Hence addresses to the natural surroundings associat- 
ed with the exploits of the past and outbursts of sympathetic response to the 
cooing of the dove and the like are an ubiquitous feature. Further, it was 
this relish for musing which earned for the image of the beloved (khaydl or taif) 
a special place in Arabic poetry. 

The poet's feeling of love for the beloved is expressed only in general terms 
such as the comparison of his own heartache to that of "a she-camel who 
has lost her young one." For the rest, the pursuit of love is only reminiscent 
of "the hot chase of a game." The only relieving feature is that the Arab 
lover insists on a response to his love, and that without any trace of cringing. 

Muhalhil b. Rabi'ah (c. 500 A. D.), whose very name bears testimony to his con- 
tribution. Al-Jumahi (Tabaqat, Cairo, 1952, p. 24) dates it from the time of 'Abd 
al-Muttalib and Hashim b. 'Abd Manaf. 

5 There are touching stories of lovers who would intercede with the hunters to 
have the gazelles set free because of the resemblance of their eyes to the eyes of 
the beloved; cf. Raghbat al-'Amit, VII, p. 39. 

Arabic Literature : Poetic and Prose Forms 

He would start taking pride in his own qualities so as not to leave any doubt 
about his deserts for the esteem of the beloved, but in the end he would not 
mind warning bluntly that although he relishes coquetry he cannot brook 
any affront to his dignity. That is why in describing the union he would 
take care to mention the yielding, passive and tacit though it may be, on 
the part of the beloved. 

Incidental to the journeying of the poet in quest of love and fortune comes 
the description of the animals and the natural scene. It has been said that 
the camel occupies the same place in Arabic poetry as the cow in the Rg- 
Veda. The horse, no less indispensable for the normal pursuits of life including 
war, comes next. Though the description came soon afterwards to sound 
jejune even to the townsfolk of Baghdad, one cannot help being moved even 
today by the tenderly feeling shown to the two animals which equals to, 
sometimes even exceeds, that reserved for the members of the household. To 
bring out certain points of comparison in the riding beasts, the poet turns to the 
wild animals, among whom the pride of place goes to the wild ass, the wild 
cow, and the ostrich. The subject of wild life is frequently enlivened with 
fine thrilling scenes of flight and chase. The natural scene is, of course, dominat- 
ed by clouds, thunder, lightning, rain, and the mirage, not to speak of the 
desert and the mountain valleys. 

The Madih. — The nasib formed only a prelude to catch the ear of the audience, 
the main theme being the modify. Though in the form of personal eulogy, it is 
really a concentration of the pride in the tribe. The particular patron to 
whom the verses are addressed is a mere peg on which to hang the ideal that 
united the tribe as against other tribes. The so-called virtues constituting this 
ideal are, in addition to the fyamds already noted, the overpowering passion 
for vendetta, loyalty to friends and allies (and not to any moral law or civic 
organization), and hospitality to guests. The pride in valour was so all-engross- 
ing that the dictates of prudence always needed a special, and somewhat 
diffident, pleading. But, as a rule, the Bedouin considered it below his dignity 
to try strength with an unequal foe, which is reflected in his acknowledgment 
of merit on the other side. Those who refused to be restrained by the collective 
interest and initiative of the tribe in the practice of these same virtues were 
designated the sa'alik, i.e., disowned outlaws, whose production bears the 
exceptional feature of defiance of tribal authority and extra hardihood. Hospi- 
tality and generosity were characterized by the same excesses as courage and 
aimed only at achieving prominence over other tribes. With the transition from 
tribal into some kind of State organization as, for example, at Hirah, the 
panegyric tended to be more and more personal and acquired features of 

The Khatimah.— The didactic epilogue was devoid of any depth of thought 
and merely embodied lessons learnt from practical experience in the particular 
and limited milieu. Religion sat very lightly on the pagan Arab ; some occasional 
references to pre-Islamic ritual only prove that it was treated as part of an 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

inherited tribal custom 6 without symbolizing any moral ideal. The absence 
of religious thought and feeling is fully confirmed by the total lack of reasoning 
of any kind whatsoever. Death is frequently mentioned as a stark fact, but 
it only stimulated bravery, rather rashness, on the battlefield, on the one 
hand, and a sort of hectic hedonism in the intervals of peace, on the other. 
It is in this context that the poetry of the Jewish and Christian poets and such 
pagan poets as were influenced by their thought (e. g. Zuhair and the Hanifs) 
assumes a distinctive character. The idea of submission to a Supreme Power 
controlling man and the universe, a life after death involving moral retribution, 
and a spirit of peace and respect for the rights of others (the very antithesis 
of hamas) stand out as streaks of early morning light in the surrounding 
darkness. Such poetry flourished mostly in Hlrah and the oasis towns like 
Yathrib and al-Ta'if, which were also the centres of material civilization. 
Hence truly religious thought and emotion are found side by side with ex- 
hilarating pictures of urban refinement in luxury as in the poetry of 'Adiyy 
b. Zaid. It is noteworthy that the Romans and Christians were throughout, from 
the beginning down to the 'Abbasid period, the purveyors not only of wines 
but also of the etiquette of wine-drinking. 7 Anyhow, wine-drinking had become 
a common habit. On the other hand, artistic music and dancing, so far as 
they are mentioned in pre-Islamic poetry, are mere cliches popularized by 
individuals who had occasions of frequenting centres of high life under 
Persian and/or Roman influence. Both these arts were neither indigenous to nor 
common in the Arabian society of the days before the Islamic conquests. 

The qasidah presented a series of thoughts moulded in self-contained verses 
strung together in the most impressive form of a single metre and qafiyah. 
A thought running into more than one verse was a rarity and regarded some- 
what as a weakness of the poet. But one wonders whether the outward unity 
which was so perfect as to invite the charge of monotony from the uninitiated 
possessed also a similar unity of thought and ideas. The fact is that there was 
enough of coherence internally within the two main parts, viz., the nasib 
and the madih, though the appreciation of it depends upon a certain degree of 
familiarity with the pattern of life and the train of thought and feeling generated 
by it. It was only the transition from the first to the second part which was 
rather abrupt, either lacking a link altogether or depending upon one which 
was clearly artificial and weak. It is, however, untrue to say that the Arabs 
were not conscious of it ; on the other hand, they were throughout applying 
their ingenuity to htisn al-istitrad (grace of digression). Similarly, there is 
no doubt that the ideas as well as the modes of expression were stereotyped, 
but the primary reason for it is to be sought in the physical existence of the 
Arab Bedouin which was characterized, above all, by little variety. The 

6 The stock phrase attributed in the Qur'an to the pagans in defence of their 
ways that "they found their forefathers practising them" faithfully exposes their 
lack of thought and reasoning. 

7 Vide al-Ma'arri, Risalat al-Gkufran, ed. Bint al-Shati, p. 246. 

Arabic Literature: Poetic and Prose Forms 

preoccupation with a hard and meagre subsistence in a monotonous natural 
scene contributed to averseness to all serious reflection and to poverty of 
theme. At the same time the totalitarian demands of tribal loyalty left little 
room for indulgence in personal experience or individual reaction. As soon as 
thought was quickened by spiritual impulses from Judaism and Christianity 
and the monotony of life was relieved by the encroachment of Aramaean and 
Persian material civilizations, the structure of the qasidah proved accommodat- 
ing enough to change. 

In addition to hija', there was one more form of artistic poetry, namely, 
the ritha' (elegy), which maintained its position independently of the qasidah. 
Although this form too had its own cliches and was dominated by the spirit 
of hamas and the passion for vendetta, yet the element of strong personal 
emotion running through it is often genuine and highly remarkable. It is this 
reliability of the personal element which brings to the fore the strength of 
the lament of the sisters as compared with that of the wives, which is again 
a projection of the all-powerful importance of blood kinship. 

The tradition has concerned itself only with the preservation of artistic 
poetry; 8 unconventional pieces prompted by events of everyday life were 
allowed to lapse. Yet a number of them noted for wit and humour (at-mulah) 
are available for enjoyment on informal occasions. 

Islam and Poetry. — Wherever the ideals of the jahiliyyah suffered a decline 
owing to the growth of a sense of justice and corporate life under some kind 
of civic and political organization, there was left little scope for self-glorifica- 
tion at the expense of others (i.e., hija\ fajchr, and hamas). Al-Jumahi makes 
an interesting point when he attributes the paucity of poets and the meagreness 
of poetry in the tribe of Quraish already before the advent of Islam to a sense 
of respect for the rights of others as exemplified by the incident arising out 
of the lampooning by ibn al-Zib'ara. 9 Thus pre-Islamic poetry being so depen- 
dent on tribal wars for its impulses and motives, Islam was bound to make 
the ground slip under the feet of the poets. As soon as the faithful renounced 
all pride (al-nakhwah) and blind partisanship (al-'asabiyyah) in favour of 
a universal egalitarian brotherhood- and organized their life under a govern- 
ment by law, which guaranteed mutual rights and obligations, eliminating 
resort to force, and treated satire as punishable libel, the poets naturally felt 
that their day was over. Unable or unwilling to appreciate any ideal of 
morality, they turned their invectives against the person of Muhammad and 
aligned themselves actively on the side of his opponents. It was such poets, 
and not poets or poetry in general, who were denounced in the Qur'an as 
incapable of leadership due to lack of moral thinking and purposeful activity. 10 

8 Al-Jumahi, op. cit., p. 11. 

"* Ibid., p. 197 ; see also p. 217 where the same reason is adduced for the meagre- 
ness of poetry in al-Ta'if and 'Uman. 

10 Qur'an, xxvi, 224 et seq. There is an exception in favour of those who are 
devoted to righteous belief and good deeds. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Severe penalties had also to be meted out to a number of them such as abu 
'Azza, al-Nadr b. al-Harith and Ka'b b. al-Ashraf— all of whom had played 
a part as active competitors while using the art of poetry as an additional 
weapon directed especially against the person of Muhammad, whose kindness 
they were not loth to exploit whenever they found themselves helpless. 

But the reason for the vehement pique and chagrin of the poets against 
Islam went much deeper. The ideals of the jahillyyah were not the only thing 
involved; their art itself was threatened with dislodgment from the position 
or supremacy enjoyed theretofore. Was there not the Qur'an held up as a 
challenge to artistic composition ? It is quite understandable that the Arabs 
should be completely at a loss to place the Qur'an in any of the categories 
of artistic composition known to them. They would call it al-shi'r (poetry) 
when their own poetic production was so palpably different from it both in 
form and content. Only poetry had been known to exercise such sway 
over the minds of the people as the Qur'an did. If it were not poetry it could 
only be grouped along with the utterances of a soothsayer (kahin) or a person 
in trance (mafnun). This equation, however, had an ostensibly disparaging 
intent inasmuch as such utterances were seldom held in high esteem as a 
piece of art. The allusion was only to their enigmatic character in which the 
people deciphered fortune and prophecy. When at last they turned to the 
content, they "gave unmistakable proof of their jahillyyah outlook on finding 
the Qur'an to be merely a bundle of "the stories of the ancient peoples" (asaflr 
al-awwalln). Soon they propped up one of them, al-Nadr b. al-Harith, to 
draw the people away from the Qur'an with his skill in reciting the stories 
of Rustam and Isfandiyar. As a matter of fact, the form of the Qur'an is 
derived from a familiar pattern, yet it represents a new class by itself. It is 
prose composed of short, compact sentences which, when read together, sound 
as balanced counterparts (mathani), the endings (fawasil) of them having 
a distinguishable cadence free from the shackles of a regular saf . It bewildered 
and dismayed the Arabs that this form which, in contrast with the familiar 
pattern of the soothsayers, tending to simplicity rather than artificial encum- 
brance, should soar to such height of inimitable perfection as to constitute a 
challenge to poetry. The same is true of the diction employed in the Qur'an : 
it is clear and easily intelligible (mvJbin), yet pure and elegant. But whatever 
the elegance of form and diction, the uniqueness of the Qur'an lay particularly 
in its content: the reflection on the world of nature as distinguished from an 
aesthetic worship of it, the search for a goal of fife and an ideal of morality 
in human conduct, in short, the awakening of the forces of good in the nature 
of man to set limits to, and control, the evil in himself. It was this content 
which made the Qur'an the prototype of an entirely new class of literary 
composition. In later times it was an aberration of the pre-Islamic taste 
which exalted the excellence of the word over and above that of the content. 11 

1 The example of the Qur'an illustrates the principle of novelty in literary 

Arabic Literature : Poetic and Prose Forms 

It is quite easy for us to realize the dismay of the poets whose production, 
when judged subsequently by the standards of the Greek philosophers, was 
found to be nothing but an exhortation to lewdness; only two qualities of 
character, namely, bravery and generosity, were such as could be said to be 
harmless to the youth. But the Prophet appreciated their art much more 
than they realized. He would not taboo poetry ; rather, he would listen eagerly 
to the verse of Umayyah b. abi al-Salt and many others. He was not even 
indifferent. On the other hand, he adopted the way of active patronage and 
guidance to make clear the demands for adjustment. As an example, let us 
take the case of Ka'b b. Zuhair. The ode which brought him the burdah 
(mantle) as a prize is in the traditional style: it opens with erotic verses 
lamenting separation from the beloved, Su'ad, and recalling her physical 
charms, not excluding the intoxication of the saliva compared to wine. The 
inadlh puts on a new aspect in so far as the glorification of the new ideal 
is concerned. 12 But the poet did not yet know how to restrain his passion for 
satire; he had to make amends for suppressed expressions on the Ansar. 
Thus, the only demand made by orthodox Islam on the poets was to avoid 
the proud and gleeful recounting of adventures of sinful pleasure such as 
abound in the verses of the "Vagabond Prince," and to refrain from indulging 
in tribal pride or exaltation of force regardless of moral rectitude. 13 Within 
these ordinary limits of decency and peaceful life the old literary traditions 
were to survive and grow. It has particularly to be noted that erotic interest 
in woman or even the mention of wine as a symbol of joyful experience was 
fully legitimate in the context of Islam's recognition of merit only in the 
lawful pursuit, and not in renunciation, of sensuous pleasure. As the examples 
of Dabi' b. al-Harith and al-Hutai'ah would prove, only the satire and the 
libel were sternly put down. 

Development of the Ghazal. — The detachment of poetry from the pas- 
sions and the fury of tribal antagonism as well as the absence under the 
Orthodox Caliphate of that corruptive patronage which draws talent away 
from universal human interests to flattery of personages, conduced inevitably 
to concentration on the theme of love in poetry and song. These arts were 
cultivated in the Hijaz by the sprightly and intelligent youth from among 
the nobility of the Ansar and the Muhajirin, who were precluded from play- 
ing their part in politics and government and were at the same time pam- 
pered with frequent accessions to their already vast hereditary fortune in 
the form of largesses on behalf of the Umayyads. Thus frustration, leisure, 

form. In order to achieve the paramount purpose of communication and effect, 
novelty must always be embedded in familiarity. 

12 The verses of ibn al-Zib'ara are much more explicit on the subject of renuncia- 
tion of the old and devotion to the new ideal, vide al-Jumahi, op. cit., pp. 202-03. 

13 An excellent example of the change of values in this respect is provided by 
the hija" of al-Najaghi which was taken by 'Umar to be an eulogy, vide ibn Qutaibah, 
op. cit., I, p. 290. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

and opulence all combined to turn the creative genius to art and amusement. 
The peculiarly Islamic institution of rehabilitating the prisoners of war as 
members of the households of the conquerors, instead of segregating them in 
penal camps, has always had far-reaching consequences, in the field of cultural 
interchange but never were such consequences so great as in the case of the 
conquest of Persia. Suffice it to say that it was the new Persian element in 
the households of Mecca and Medina which for the first time introduced 
artistic music and dancing in the very heart of Arabian society. 14 In the special 
traditions of the people and the time, there was no music and dancing with- 
out poetry. Therefore, poetry underwent a highly welcome and profound 
change both in form as well as content. Whereas in the jahillyyah period 
the motif of aggressive self-glorification often made some of the more militant 
tribes positively to discourage the ghazal, it now came to be the main theme 
catering to the refined aesthetic taste and tenderly feelings of the new society. 
Naturally enough, the erotic prelude came in handy for development as an 
independent form, which, by the way, marked the beginning of the breaking- 
up of the "loose unity of the qasidah." 

The development of the independent form of the ghazal took two distinct 
and parallel lines. First, the licentious (al-ibdJtiyy) ghazal, best represented 
by 'Umar b. abi Rabl'ah (d.c. 101/719), flourished in the towns and faithfully 
reflected the high life obtaining there. As compared with the pre-Islamic 
nasib, this ghazal is an end in itself. The poet is no longer a warrior made 
essentially of hard stuff, who snatches a few moments of respite to devote 
to the hot pursuit of a woman. Rather he is an amiable and amorous youth 
entirely devoted to the cultivation of his feeling of love and desire for soft 
dalliance without being distracted by any thought of tribal security and 
personal safety. The description of physical charms is no more a mere 
description ; it is rather a fine aesthetic appreciation of beauty. Still more 
remarkable is the shifting of the focus inwards and the transformation 
of the union into an exchange of feeling and sentiment. 15 And both the 
lover and the beloved are endowed with sharp wit, humour, and the mood 
for sport. In short, the qualities of the mind and the longings of the heart 
come to the fore and find unimpeded expression. Special delight is taken in 
the evasion of social restrictions and the celebration of clandestine visits 
while the congregation at the time of the hajj is brought in as the 
connoisseur's opportunity for the enjoyment of beauty from far and near. 
The second kind of ghazal was born of the ideal of Platonic love cultivated 
in the desert. The chastening influence of the restraints of Islam on the 

14 Up till the days of 'Umar, Arabian music was nothing but intonation of 
voice in the manner of a camel-driver reciting his songs (vide al-Aghani, VIII, 
p. 149, quoted in Fajr al-Islam, p. 120). This accounts most plausibly for the 
absence of reference in the Qur'fin to music and dancing while the symbolization 
of wine is so commonplace. 

15 Vide al-Jahiz quoted in Duha al-Islam, I, p. 15. 


Arabic Literature : Poetic and Prose Forms 

simple-living Bedouins had the remarkable result of originating the conception 
of love shorn of all tinge of bodily lust — an ideal conception thoroughly un- 
known to the pre-Islamic Arab. This ideal is enshrined in the highly subjective 
verse centring around the popular stories of Majnun-Laila and Jamil-Buthai- 
nah. They may or may not have been real historical personages; what really 
matters is that they do represent a type of idealistic lover who regards any 
touch of lust as desecration of love, beauty, and art. No wonder that the 
physical charms are overshadowed by a tite-a-tite between two hearts full 
of deep pathos. 

Vilifying ghazal. — It has already been noted that the lover-poets of the 
towns were really men of frustrated political ambitions. Their impotent 
rage against the rulers would not be held back even when they sought 
to beguile it with art. Rather it is highly interesting to note that it 
should turn the artistic form of the licentious ghazal into an instrument for 
vilification and political vendetta. Taking the typical example of ibn Qais 
al-Ruqayyat (d. c. 80/699-700) one finds him mentioning Umm al-Banin, the 
wife of al-Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik, as the object of his flirtation. His aim 
was no other than to leave the Umayyad monarch smarting with anger, even 
though sometimes he adroitly contrived in the verse itself to absolve the 
innocent lady of guilt. 

Apart from political vendetta, it became a commonplace with the poets 
to give rebirth to hija' in the form of ghazal by mentioning the ladies and the 
female relations of their enemies in shamefully amorous terms. How unrelated 
to truth all this was, is illustrated by the incident of Umm Ja'far. When she 
could not keep patience over al-Ahwas, a Medinese poet, mentioning her in 
his verses in order to bring her people into disrepute, she caught hold of him 
one day in the market-place and demanded of him the money which, she 
made out, he owed to her. As the poet swore that he did not know her at all, 
she remarked : Of course, you do not know me, yet you mention many things 
about me in your verses. It is no surprise that State authority was some- 
times invoked against such poets in the same way as it was invoked in the case 
of the direct hijd' of al-Hutai'ah and others. At the same time there is evidence 
to show that at least the high-class ladies aspired to have their charms sung 
by the poets in the same way as in our own days they would feel proud 
to see their photographs in newpapers. It must, however, be remembered 
that, on the whole, "licence" was confined to a disregard of social con- 
ventions relating to contacts between the two sexes ; otherwise obscenity was 
guarded against in all good taste. 

In regard to form, it is enough to remind ourselves that the lover-poets of 
Mecca and Medina produced for the first time a lyric verse specially designed 
to be set to music. With this purpose they naturally preferred such metres 
as were short and characterized by an easy flow, though they continued to 
rely mainly on the old tradition itself. Consequent upon the development 
of natural, humanistic interests, all artificiality about the language and 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

pompousness was shed and simple unaffected expression in familiar words 
and soft tones came to be aimed at. To some, though very limited, extent, 
continuous verse also came into use for such purposes as the reproduction of 
dialogues in love-poetry. 

It so happened that the merits of the Umayyad poetry set out above 
received little appreciation owing to the preoccupation of the scholars with 
such pre-Islamic poetry as might be helpful in the study and preservation of 
the idiom of the Qur'an. With regard to its appreciation, the time factor 
alone was of the prime importance ; hence the prejudice in favour of the pre- 
Islamic verse became stereotyped, and all-pervading. It was ibn Khaldun who 
first realized that, linguistic research apart, the intrinsic artistic merits of the 
Umayyad poetry were definitely far superior to those of the pre-Islamic 
poetry. And the reason for it was that those who lived under Islam benefited 
from the model of high-class speech provided by the Qur'an and the Hadith; 
hence their literary taste improved a great deal beyond that of the pre- 
Islamic people. That this improvement should have taken a generation to 
manifest itself fully in poetry (and also in prose), was quite natural and should 
not stand in the way of tracing it to its origins in Islam. The depth of thought, 
the richness of imagination, the paramountcy of content, the search within 
for the feelings of the heart, and the consciousness of the restraint of reason, 
no matter if it is disobeyed, are all traceable direct to the influence of Islam 
and its Holy Book, and these general qualities are perceptible in the post- 
Islamic production even where the themes are un-Islamic. It was perhaps 
this un-Islamic element such as the "licence" in ghazal and the lampooning 
in the naqd'id which, in addition to the necessities of linguistic research, turned 
the attention away from the contribution of Islam to the literary production 
of the Umayyad period. Ibn Khaldun further tells us that some of the learned 
scholars of his time had to acknowledge their dormant impression of the 
superior merits of the post-Islamic production, as if it were to their own sur- 
prise, but were unable to give any reason for it. 18 No wonder that the view 
of ibn Khaldun should remain unattended until it found an echo in Taha 
Husain, although the latter's judgment seems to have been the result of the 
application of the modern standards of literary criticism in the West. 

If one were to look for the dominating motif of poetry in Islam itself, it 
will be found in the verses of the Kharijites. Their production represents a 
characteristic regimentation of the pre-Islamic qualities of hardihood, courage, 
and sacrifice in the service of the ideology of Islam. Just because it is as true 
to life as the poetry of the pre-Islamic age, the new spirit, ideals, and senti- 
ments are clearly discernible. Yet it symbolizes, according to the cultural 
milieu of the Kharajites. the purely ancient Arab tradition as mellowed by 
Islamic puritanism. Most interesting is the survival without any loss of attrac- 
tion of the erotic theme in a society where even the "talk" of wine or a mere 

s Ibn Khaldun, Maqaddimah, Chap. VI (49). 

Arabic Literature: Poetic and Prose Forms 

hint of laxity in relationship between the two sexes was an unpardonable 
offence. Equally notable is the spirit of martyrdom which would not allow 
virility to be impaired by a relish of tragedy and pathos for their own sake. 

While under the Islamic influence poetry was set on its course of develop- 
ment along natural, humanistic lines, the corruptive patronage of the Court 
stepped in to revive the old tribal antagonism and buy off unscrupulous, 
though talented, poets to act as its propagandists. Thus the trio — Farazdaq, 
Jarir, and al-Akhtal— attained high fame in the field of panegyric and lam- 
poon. They couched praise for the Umayyads as well as invectives against 
their opponents in the true form of the qcmdah with its carefully chosen diction 
and high-flown style. The Christian al-Akhtal, who, by the way, was considered 
to be free to revel in wine without offending Muslim piety, was also remarkable 
for his willingness to step in where a Muslim, irrespective of his alignment, 
feared to tread, namely, the satire against the Ansar. The counter offensive 
from the other side showed a much more genuine feeling of devotion not only 
to the House of the Prophet but also to the ideal of justice and public weal 
popularly associated with it. 

The contrast between the settled life in the towns and the Bedouin ways of 
the desert has throughout been a powerful factor in Arab thought and 
history. Islam, with its marked predilection for congregational activity, 
accelerated as never before the process of drawing emigrants from the desert, 
who flocked into the towns to enlist in military service, State organizations, 
and economic activity. This created a nostalgia in the mind of some poets 
who introduced a new theme, viz., the comparison of the new life, including 
the charms and manners of the damsels of the towns, with the old ways of 
the desert. Even in regard to the qcmdah, though its conventional form 
remained intact, the new pattern of society changed the modes of thought 
and the manners of expression sufficiently to render the purely Bedouin tradi- 
tion a mere curiosity. This curiosity had its last protagonist in Dhu al- 
Rummah (d. 117/755). It was somewhat in the samespirit that the oldest and the 
simplest form of rajaz was employed in long qasidahs pedantically overloaded 
with rare vocabulary. 

The 'Abbdsid Era.— With the advent of the 'Abbasids the corruptive 
patronage of the Court, which siphoned poetic talent into the madih, expanded 
to such an extent that only a few could keep themselves free from it just 
because they were consciously determined to do so. Curiously enough, as the 
Caliphate declined it only led to a multiplicity of such centres of patronage 
and thus the servility of the poets went on increasing further and further. 
At any rate, the growth of luxury and the enrichment of culture from foreign 
sources was bound to seek an outlet in new forms and modes of poetry. 
Fortunately the traditional qcmdah did comprise within its orbit a large 
number of themes concerned with peaceful enjoyment or warlike activity, 
which, in their developed form under the Empire, now claimed separate 
treatment. All that was required was to salvage the various themes from 


A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
regimentation by the all-engrossing passion of tribal solidarity as signified 
by the supremacy of the madih. This process, which started with the develop- 
ment of the ghazal under the Umayyads, took its full course in the following 
era until all the topics treated incidentally in the old tradition branched off 
into independent kinds. 

Further Development of the Ghazal. — It will be remembered that Islam, not 
being a monastic religion, regards woman not as a taboo but as one of the 
three things dearest to the Prophet. Thus the theme in itself, far from offending 
the moral sense, was particularly compatible with Islam's bold affirmation 
of nature. Significant is the use in the Qur'an of this very imagery of woman 
and wine for the conveyance of an idea of the highest bliss in the heavens. 
It must, however, be admitted that a certain degree of licentiousness has 
actually attended upon the development of the ghazal from the very begin- 
ning. Towards this element of licentiousness the early Islamic society adopted 
an attitude of practical toleration as apart from official recognition; it was 
only the personal scandal which was generally condemned by the people and 
sternly curbed by the State. This tolerant attitude is best embodied 
in an incident at the Court of Sulaiman b. 'Abd al-Malik. Once when al- 
Farazdaq recited to the monarch such verses of his as amounted to a con- 
fession of adultery, the monarch perhaps could think of no better way of 
expressing his appreciation than to embarrass the poet with a threat of legal 
cognizance and penalty. But calmly the poet asked him: "The sanction be- 
hind the penalty?" "Of course, the Qur'an," replied the monarch, where- 
upon the poet retorted : "All right, the Qur'an itself assumes my innocence 
when it says of the poets that they 'celebrate in speech what they do not 
practise!'" 17 Truly, there is much more than wit in the argument of the poet; 
it gives pointed cognizance to the fact that a poet relies mainly on his mental 
experience. Practical experience has no essential bearing on art; rather it is 
a matter of personal character. 18 In the words of abu Nuwas, one can safely 
and effectively "talk of fire without burning one's mouth." Thus cultivation 
of the erotic verse, including the licentious ghazal, originated and flourished 
vigorously under Islam in public circles. But as soon as it was transferred to 
the royal palace it suffered from the same servility to the over-indulged baser 
instinct of the patrons as the madih in relation to their inflated sense of 
vainglory. At the palace the poet was promoted to the position of a 
boor, companion who shared the privacy and the intimacy of the patron, 
and enlightened, diverted, and amused him with appropriate citations, 

17 Ibn Qutaibah, op. cit., I, p. 451. 

18 In all Islamic literature some of the best wine songs have been produced 
by those who never tasted it. After all, does an actor actually experience death 
before he successfully acts the scene on the stage? Even the poets who waxed 
eloquent on the properties of the saliva safeguarded the chastity of the lady-love 
by saying at the end that they knew of it just as one knew of the water in the 
cloud by the flash of lightning. 

Arabic Literature : Poetic and Prose Forms 

impromptu compositions, and ready wit. It is legitimate to link this 
institution with the life of the pre-Islamic poet, al-Nabighah, at the Court 
of Hirah, but one has to take note of the steadily increasing dissoluteness and 
sexual exhibitionism which began with al-Walid II and reached its climax 
in abu Nuwas. 18 This exhibitionism was designated separately as al-khald'ah 
al-mujun and was relished only in the company of intimate friends as a 
source of enjoyment. From the palaces it percolated down to public circles 
and was preserved only for the sake of witticism and elegance of language — 
undeniably a saving grace about it. When devoid of wit and shorn of all 
obliquity it was condemned outright as obscene and in sheer bad taste. 

Bohemianism — In public circles the joys of life were idealized in terms 
overtly disdainful of moral restraint under the pressure of another set of 
circumstances in which national and political rivalries played a significant 
part. It has been noted above that in the initial stage licence in poetry was 
treated apart from the personal character of the poet. But gradually the poet's 
own guilty conscience and the general social approbation caused him to 
introduce in poetry itself some sort of defence of his own promiscuous way 
of life. This involved an active propagation of the disregard of social and 
moral values, scorn for the religious preceptor, an invidious lack of faith in 
after-life and at the same time a somewhat philosophical justification for the 
excesses from God's quality of "forgiveness." Even tins development left 
the larger section of society unalarmed; it was taken merely as an exercise 
of wit and humour. Soon, however, there was a further development in the 
peculiar atmosphere of Baghdad which was torn by Persian-Arab rivalry — 
a rivalry fanned by the alignment of the Persian element with the 'Abbasids. 
In Baghdad certain types of literary Bohemians, mostly Persians, organized 
themselves into cells or clubs where wine, women (those of- a low status, of 
course), and poetry full of sarcasm for the orthodox way of life were zealously 
enjoyed. From apologetics it now passed into the phase of active glorification 
of practical libertinism. And all this was done in a spirit of arrogant demon- 
stration of the intellectual refinement and cultural superiority of the Persians 
so much so that zarf (quickness of wit) came to be proverbially associated 
with this class of proud libertines— zindiqs as they were called. 20 Although 
it is very doubtful that many of these Bohemians were genuinely devoted to 
Zoroastrianism or Manichaeanism as against Islam, it is a fact that some of 
them were bold enough to mention the names of Zoroaster and Mani as the 
Bacchus-like patrons of libertinism as against the restrictions on pleasure 
symbolized by Islam. Anyway, there is little doubt that this cultural arrogance 

19 It is only an exuberance of popular fancy which has foisted the mujun of 
abu Nuwas on the company of Harun al-Rashid. Ibn Khaldun has noted the in- 
congruity of it with the restraint and dignity of the bearing of the great monarch. 

20 An exact parallel is to be observed in our own day: la it not that wine- 
drinking, ball-room dancing, and cabaret shows are associated with the superiority 
of the cultural taste and the intellectual refinement of Western provenance ? 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

was linked with the aspiration to greater and greater political control, which 
made the 'Abbasids closely watch and suspect their own supporters. While 
the public were left speculating as to the cause of the sudden downfall of 
the Barmakids, a methodical 2M«%-hunt was set afoot, the verses of the 
poets were incriminatingly dissected at ceremonial trials and the guillotine 
applied to the partners in the widespread net of conspiracy. 21 Thus the poetry 
of Bashshar (d. 168/784) came to be typical of that pursuit of refinement and 
culture which is associated with the enjoyment of woman and wine and their 
celebration in arts and song enlivened by wit, humour, and sarcasm on social 
and moral restrictions. 

Before we pass on it has to be added in regard to these libertines that their 
fund of humour and sarcasm was not exhausted in their engagements with 
the opponents; their unprincipled levity often caused them to exercise the 
same resources against one another. Hence most of them have the reputation 
as satirists as well. 

New Features of the Qhazal. — A few special features of the new ghazal 
under the 'Abbasids have to be noted. First, there was the addition, almost 
substitution, of the male for the female object of love. It must be admitted 
that it almost amounted to a common social vice attributable to Persian 
influence. Secondly, a refined taste in similes and metaphors and the subtlety 
of imagination in general are also traceable to the same source. Thirdly, 
though gleeful descriptions of wine were quite old in Arabic poetry, the 
subject came now to be cultivated as an independent art. As with the theme 
of beauty so with that of wine ; it is no longer a mere description of the trans- 
parency of the glass, the colour of the wine, the various stages of brewing, 
and the haggling of the wine-seller over its price, nor is wine-drinking a mere 
appurtenance of nobility. The emphasis now is on the inner sensation of 
abandonment and revelry experienced by the drunkard. Lastly, one has to 
take account of the special characteristic of Islamic society which causes 
even renegades of the type of abu Nuwas to be overtaken by remorse and 
pious reflection in old age. Hence, al-shaib w-cd-shabdb (old age and youth) 
developed into a recurring and semi-independent theme closely associated 
with the nasib. It is characterized by recollections of the pleasures which are 
no more within reach or capacity — a feature inherited from pagan poetry. 
Under the influence of Islam it was complemented with a desire to make 
amends for the erroneous ways of the past. 

21 It is not merely a sentimental reaction but a perfectly reasonable attitude 
that the liberties taken by Iqbal's "love" in the presence of God be denied to 
one who talks of God from the atheistic viewpoint. A verse of Hfifiz ridiculing 
formalism in religion will be appreciated by the Muslims, who would legitimately 
resent the same being quoted in the context of an anti-God movement. Also 
significant are the words in which al-Mahdi interceded with his father, al-Mansur, 
on behalf of Muti' b. Iyfls. He pleaded that MutI' was only a fasiq (libertine) and 
not a zindiq, i.e., not committed to overthrowing the existing order. 


Arabic Literature: Poetic and Prose Forms 

Moral, Philosophical, and Mystic Poetry.— It would be a very lopsided 
view indeed if we imagined the 'Abbasid society to be merely that which is 
pictured by the boon companions of the Mite and the Bohemians of the 
metropolis. Religion and morality had their own devotees and champions in 
no way negligible either in numbers or in importance. In the very nature of 
things, however, religion, as apart from religious sentiment, could not be 
cultivated in poetry. Morals formed a fit theme for poetical art. They also 
had a precedent in the so-called wise sayings of the pre-Islamic poets, though 
these latter were entirely devoid of any element of reasoning in them. Abu 
al-'Atahiyah (d. 213/828) introduced moralizing verse characterized by thought 
and reflection but it was because of this very new basis that it came in for 
reserve and suspicion. Also it inevitably involved criticism of the prevalent 
modes of society. Abu al-'Atahiyah sometimes appears as the spokesman 
of the downtrodden masses bringing to the notice of the Caliph their economic 
plight and difficulties. Most unfortunate of all, the entire theme was per- 
meated with a mood of pessimism which persisted and was steadily augmented 
by the influx of philosophical ideas and monastic tendencies. Philosophical 
poetry reached its highest achievement with abu al-'Ala' al-Ma'arri (d. 449/ 
1057), who made a frontal attack on all religions as such and exalted reason 
in opposition to revelation. Yet he remained the pessimist par excellence. His 
eclecticism also centred around the austere as exemplified by the particular 
features of Indian philosophy adopted by him. Still more important is to 
remember that pure philosophy proved no more delectable in verse than 
religion. Even though abu al-'Ala' was a master of literary arts, his philo- 
sophical poetry remained a simple statement of judgment and argument un- 
clothed in poetic imagery ; hence it provided enough justification for denouncing 
it as "no poetry at all" (ibn Khaldun). His resort to jugglery with words is 
also a further proof, if proof were needed, of his woeful failure to devise a 
truly poetic form for the presentation of his philosophical thought. 22 That 
is why his poetry seldom achieved any high degree of popularity, though 
he was, and has throughout been, highly respected as a scholar. It is wrong to 
attribute this to the prejudice against the anti-Islamic ideas contained in it. 
Had it been so, the production of the libertine poets would not have fared 
any better/The true reason is that abu al-'Ala's poetry was bare of essential 
poetic appurtenances. In the words of an Arab critic, the art of poetry con- 
sists in making a thing appear beautiful: the intrinsic beauty of the thing or 
the idea would not make up for any crudity of presentation. The libertine 
poets were accomplished masters of this art of presentation; hence, unlike 
abu al-'Ala', they were widely enjoyed but seldom respected. 

22 In our own time Iqbal succeeded eminently where abu al-'Ala' failed miserably. 
Iqbal's employment of the traditional language of the mystics, which sometimes 
misleads even great scholars to take him for a mystic, is a device to make his ideas 
appear beautiful. Such a popular and familiar literary medium is all the more 
essential when the ideas are novel and unfamiliar. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

In contrast with philosophy, mystic ideas belong essentially to the theme 
of love and naturally command for their expression all the paraphernalia of 
love poetry. The high sentimentalism of the mystic poets was enough to 
ensure for them a strong popular appeal, in consequence of which they came 
in for persecution while abu al-'AIa', a lone voice, was left comfortably alone. 
Again, we have to note that, significantly enough, the popularity of mystic 
poetry survived all questioning of the orthodoxy of its contents and even 
the attacks on the person of the mystics. But the excessive sentimentalism 
of the mystic poetry centring around the beatific vision is such as to have 
a lamentably adverse effect on the search for clear, practical ideal of life and 
the urge to realize it through activity. The passivity of an intoxicated visionary, 
as opposed to the ardent activity of a devoted missionary, formed the key- 
note of it. 

Formal Panegyric— Apart from the lighter side of the life in the privacy 
of the palace, which was shared and recorded by the nadlm-poet, there were 
many formal occasions and official assemblies at the Court when the emphasis 
was on decorum and dignity. On such occasions it was the strictly conventional 
form of the madih, the qasidah, which was in vogue. In view of the rigidity 
of its forms already noted, it is no surprise that it required the highest skill 
to handle it with success. In any case, the monotony of the stereotype could 
only be made up with hyperbole and rhetorical tropes of all kinds. Some 
pedantic display of logic and philosophy was also introduced as a novelty. 

As these formal panegyrics were designed in the manner of the party press 
of our own day to exalt the powers that be in the eyes of the public, naturally 
enough they were replete with references to the political ideology — often 
bound up with specific religious belief and dogma — of the ruling dynasty as, 
for example, the claims of the 'Abbasids vis-a-vis the 'Alids. But, while there 
were scores of those who for sordid gain served as mere trumpeters, there 
was no dearth of those who spoke from conviction. And in fairness it must 
be said that the conscientious objectors on the side of the opposition were 
given a long rope only if they had the courage to forgo the patronage of 
the Court. 

It was also in this traditional form fit for themes of grandeur and no levity 
that the incidents of the wars were pictured. They came to be particularly 
relished by the Bedouin spirit of the Hamdanids under the shadow of the 
Crusades. Another theme cognate with it was that of the prison-poems (al- 
habslyyat) best represented by abu Firas (d. 357/968). They are an impressive 
blend of nostalgia for home, pathos of suffering, and indomitable courage. 

Complaint against Time (Shakwah al-Zaman). — Perhaps the most depressing 
aspect of the poetry of these times is the common expression of 
dissatisfaction with one's lot and a feeling of insecurity in respect of life, 
property, and position. As undeserving people enjoy wealth and power and 
real merit is neglected, nay persecuted, consolation is sought in the acceptance 
of this state of affairs as the "way of the world" — the decree of fate beyond 

Arabic Literature: Poetic and Prose Forms 

the control of man. There was no such dominant note of despondency and 
helplessness when the pre-Islamic poet occasionally bemoaned the inscrut- 
ability of fate (jadd) and the failure of his hard struggle (jidd) to bring him 
the coveted reward. Even in the early days of Islam fate did not appear to 
be so arbitrary : when there was dissatisfaction it was directed against 'persons — 
tyrants and their dynasties. It is only in the late 'Abbasid period that the 
complaint against "Time" 23 became almost a fashion so much so that the 
poets simulated it in the same way as they simulated love. 

Personal and Occasional Verse. — It was characteristic of the progress 
of culture that poetry be sought after as the medium for the communication 
of thought and feeling occasioned by the vicissitudes of personal relations 
and small incidents in everyday life. The pre-Islamic poet also had frequent 
occasions to address his "ibn al- l amm" (cousin) in reprobatory terms, but his 
utterances were deep-rooted in the actual matter-of-fact struggle for existence. 
The ikhwaniyydt of the period under review constitute a branch of cultivation 
of elegance. The difference is the same as between an actual fighter and an 
amateur sportsman. The topics range over estrangement, effort at reconcilia- 
tion, and tickling and teasing through wit and humour. These categories, 
however, appear to be sham when compared with the impressive genuineness 
of the pieces relating to incidents in everyday life as, for example, the one 
attributed to a literatus who was compelled to part with his collection of 
books in a time of adversity. This kind of poetry concerning the unaffected, 
natural gushing forth of some poignant feeling or passion aroused by the 
actual facts of life reached its full development in Spain in general and in the 
verses of al-Mu'tamid in particular. A strong element of genuine enthusiasm 
and personal acrimony is also evoked by the rivalry among the diverse national 
groups: the Arabs, the Persians, the Turks, the Romans, and the Negroes. 
Pride-cum-satire was the popular form of championing one nationality against 
the other on the basis of ethnology, history, mental qualities, and cultural 
achievements. This must be distinguished from the aspect noted above which 
concerned the exaltation of a particular kind of social and cultural life. 

Descriptive Poetry. — Beauty no longer remained confined to nature: 
there were high mansions, fortified castles, exquisite mosques, and public 
buildings, and, above all, public and private gardens, aqueducts and boat- 
houses — all claiming attention from the artist and the poet. Even the starlit 
sky and the cloudy horizon were endowed with a new charm : to the Bedouin 
they gave only a simple impression of awe and induced a mood of little good 
cheer; to the Baghdadian who went out for a stroll in the evening they catered 
to his desire for the enjoyment of beauty. Thus, the descriptive poetry of this 

23 This is the "abuse of time" which is expressly prohibited by the Prophet. 
Only he would curse the stars who believes himself to be a passive object under 
their blind inexorable influence. Islam, on the other hand, stands for man's active 
and dominant role in setting the pattern of life through the instrumentality of the 
process of time as ordained by God; cf. Iqbal, Asrar-i Khudi. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
period, which often monopolizes the larger part of long qaslddhs, is almost 
something new. It is exhilarating indeed to find roses being compared to 
cheeks and tall cypress to the slim stature of damsels rather than vice versa 
as of yore. Flowers in particular were the craze of the tasteful and the elegant, 
who even used them as symbols of moods and sentiments in their exchanges 
of love. 24 No surprise that the description of flowers (al-zahrlyydt) should 
grow into a semi-independent branch of poetry in which al-Sanubari (d. 334/ 
945) distinguished himself in the East. Yet there is nothing comparable to 
the poetry of Spain so far as high sensitivity to nature is concerned. There 
the poet not only describes and enjoys nature but also shows himself to be 
in communion with it. Another branch of descriptive poetry whieh attained 
semi-independent form was al-tardiyydt (venery poems). It also reflected 
in ample measure the trappings of luxury and civilization around an old 
traditional interest. 

Panegyrics on the Prophet (al-Mada'Uj al-Nabawiyyah).— As we have 
seen earlier there was no time lost in celebrating the achievements of the 
Prophet and composing panegyrics on him in the traditional form and style 
of the qasidak. When the Umayyads fanned political partisanship by employ- 
ing the poets to denounce their rivals, it evoked a new spirit of selfless devotion 
to the cause of the 'Alids, which found its most forceful exponent in al-Kumait. 
It soon became a panegyric on the family of the Prophet which was charac- 
terized, apart from legal arguments in favour of the 'AM claims, by a good 
deal of symbolism of pathos and sufFering drawn from the incidents of history. 
A concomitant theme of high general interest was the condemnation of 
tyranny, oppression, and misrule coupled with the fervent hope of return 
to ideal conditions at the hands of the virtuous Imams. The two sides carried 
on the old bout right through the 'Abbasid period during which the 'Alids 
continued to be in the wilderness of opposition. In later times when the 
political controversy lost a good deal of realism and turned into mere sectarian 
ritual, this kind of poetry was taken over into the circles of the Sufis, who 
concerned themselves particularly with its content of loyal sentiment and 
tragic pathos. These Sufi composers, it will be remembered, were seldom men 
of high literary attainments nor did they care to examine facts and rely on 
them alone. Rather they would introduce all sorts of superstition which would 
feed sentimentalism. A famous example of this kind is the -pseudo- Burdah 
of al-Biisiri (died 694/1294-95) which, though not devoid of literary elegance, 
is typical of superstitious belief and is esteemed primarily for its supposed 
magical properties. 

The framework of these panegyrics being that of the traditional qastdah, 
the essential prelude of erotic verses was there. It was, however, observed as 
a convention that in this particular context "love" should be characterized 
by restraint and dignity rather than "licence." For example, it was speci- 

1 See the interesting treatise on elegant manners by al-Washsha' (Leiden, 1887). 

Arabic Literature : Poetic and Prose Forms 

fically disallowed to mention a male object of love or to refer to the hips or 
the charm of the naked shin among the physical attractions. It will be seen 
that this only confirms the thesis advanced earlier that erotic interest in 
woman (without licence) was no offence to Muslim piety. 

Still later when originality became rarer the form and the theme of the 
panegyric on the Prophet were used for the demonstration of one's skill in 
rhetorical tropes; such qasldahs were designated the badl'lyyat. That kind 
of play with words is, of course, beyond the purview of poetry proper. 

Adaptation of Metre and Diction.— It was indicated at the very begin- 
ning that the metrical forms handed down by the pre-Islamic poets continued 
to hold their own throughout the classical period. We have only to review 
the adaptation of these forms to the demands of new developments in theme 
and style. First, there was the preference of short, flexible metres and then, 
with the dethronement of the madih, the tendency to short pieces devoted to 
single or closely allied themes. However, the only departure from the tradition 
with regard to the qdfiyah was the adoption from the Persian of the muzdawaj, 
i.e., tenzon with each verse having a separate rhyme for its two hemistiches 
(instead of the whole poem having a single rhyme for the endings of each 
verse). This was the form attributed to the Zoroastrian scriptural psalms 
whieh the zindiq poets were charged with reciting in secret. And obviously 
this was the form best suited for the epic which, because of its length, made 
it well-nigh impossible to sustain one single rhyme-ending. But though the 
form of the epic narrative (al-shi'r al-qasafyy) was found, the Arabic poets 
failed to achieve anything remarkable in the field from an aesthetic view- 
point. The early pioneers, ibn al-Mu'tazz and al-Khuraimi, were tolerably 
good in picturing national calamities but unfortunately it was now reduced 
to a mere mnemonic versification of the chronicles of kings and dynasties 
without anything of genuine poetry about it. 

No sooner did the need to please the vanity of the patron disappear than 
the diction tended to be unaffected, soft, sweet, and naturally fit for the 
theme and the content. Abu al-'Atahiyah, himself a pitcher-seller, succeeded 
particularly well in employing the simple language of the common people 
without any loss of standards. On the other hand, this trend towards the 
natural and the unaffected suffered some degeneration at the hands of the 
libertine poets like Bashshar, who did not mind effeminacy and the verbatim 
reproduction of the idiom of the sporting women in the private company of 

Strophic Verse.— It is quite understandable that the need for strophic 
verse should arise as soon as music and dancing were introduced in Arabia 
consequent upon the Islamic conquest of Persia. Al-Khalil has left behind a 
few verses which are like a formula for the rhythmic beating of the feet. 25 
Further, the attempt to evolve an artistic form for the special purposes of 

» Vide Risalat al-Ohufran, p. 183. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

music and dance took the direction of adaptation of the old tradition rather 
than a complete innovation. The full length of a poem was divided into 
parts consisting of two or more verses, each part having a different single 
rhyme for its several hemistiches but all the parts followed by the repetition 
of a particular verse with a rhyme of its own and thus held together as if by 
a string {Ar. simt; hence the device called al-tasmU). This evolution must 
have taken place at a very early period since it is ascribed without certainty 
to Imru' al-Qais. It was the same device which was employed to take greater 
liberties with rhyme {and also metre) in Spain under the name of al-muwash- 
shah (from wishdh meaning girdle). Later when the colloquial dialect was 
fully admitted to this form it came to be known as the zajal. Thus it came to 
be an artistic form just free enough to be within the easy comprehension and 
unsophisticated taste of all, yet devoid of none of the essentials of traditional 
art. From Spain it was brought to Egypt and the East and achieved a high 
degree of popularity. There were still more spontaneous forms of atrophic 
verse in which the street vendors and the like moulded their cries but in all 
cases the qafiyah was fully relished and the variety of it in different strophes 
was compensated with the uniformity of the refrain, in between them. 



The earliest specimens of Arabic prose coming down to us from the pre- 
Islamic times fall into the following categories : — 

1 ,' Proverbs, 

2. Oracular sayings, 

3. Orations, and 

4. Accounts of battles and stories of love, adventure, and entertainment. 

Except for the last category the form in vogue was unmistakably epigram- 
matic and highly condensed, consisting of short, cadenced and loosely rhymed 
sentences. This form was quite in conformity with the morphology of the 
language and the peculiar temperament of the Arab, particularly in view of 
his reliance on memory alone for preservation and transmission. No surprise 
that whatever did not conform to this requirement of form was simply allowed 
to go by the board. 

The oracular sayings were almost lacking in any content whatsoever: if 
the oracle excelled in anything it was mere adroitness in ambiguity. The most 
remarkable from the viewpoint of the content were, of course, the proverbs, 
of which the few highly suggestive words often symbolized a whole story 
deep-rooted in the simple Bedouin life. Hence they were early recognized as 
a source, second only to poetry, for the knowledge of the history, manners, 
customs, and superstitions of the pre- Islamic Arabs. In subsequent periods 
also, there was a remarkable curiosity to pick up pithy and suggestive lines 


Arabic Literature: Poetic and Prose Forms 

and phrases from poetry and prose and to pass them round in speech and 
writing. Thus, the stock of proverbs, which in Arabic include idioms and 
phrases in common use, never ceased increasing and receiving variety from 
the changes in the pattern of life. Often they mirrored the experiences, com- 
plimentary and otherwise, of contacts between the various nationalities. 

The orations were designed for actual needs arising out of war-like tribal 
activity or communal social relationships. Though prose, however exquisite, 
was always rated as a lesser form of art, there is no doubt that oration had 
sufficiently developed into a recognized literary medium. It would also be 
justified to assume that sermonizing for its own sake, as, for example, on wise 
conduct and good behaviour, had come into vogue. 

The evening get-together in the courtyard, generally under the auspices 
of some generous dignitary, is the age-old manifestation of the Arab instinct 
for communal social life. The importance of this feature in the hard, matter- 
of-fact life in the inhospitable desert cannot be over-emphasized. It is also 
quite understandable that the main diversion on this occasion should be a 
round of talks on events and anecdotes bound up either with historical curi- 
osity or common interest in love and adventure. The contents of this samar 
can be easily distinguished as (a) the narratives of the battles of the Arabs, 
(b) stories of love and adventure of Arabian provenance, and (c) stories 
borrowed from foreign sources. Some traces of the beast-fable have also been 
found scattered here and there. Nevertheless, pure fables were seldom a flair 
of the Arab mind even in subsequent times. Naturally enough, this evening 
talk was couched in simple informal language with emphasis on content 
rather than on elegance of word, and the way in which it has been recorded 
by the scholars of early Islam can at best be described as quotation from the 
speech of the narrator. 

Influence of the Qur'an and the Hadith.— The unique position of the 
Qur'an as the first book in Arabic has already been noted. It for the first 
time made the Arabs fully aware of the potentialities of prose as an artistic 
form. Still more important in another way was the normative influence of 
the Hadith. It is certainly wrong to assume that the influence of the Qur'an 
was in any way circumscribed by its claim to inimitability because even an 
unattainable ideal is always potent enough to set the direction of effort in 
the future. But, of course, there was an air of formality about the Qur'an. 
On the other hand, the Hadith represented the model of effortless, everyday 
speech— simple, terse, to the point, efficacious of purpose, and interspersed 
with flashes of vivacity and humour. The most important general contribution 
of both the Qur'an and the Hadith was to drive home the primordial need 
for setting an aim and a purpose in speech and composition and making both 
the content and the word fit and conform to the same. The new outlook on 
literary beauty as related to a definite purpose represented a radical change 
from the old tradition of aimless talk — "the wandering into every valley" 
(Qur'an) — and gave birth to a mental discipline which is the hallmark of 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

the orations and the epistolary compositions of early Islam. The official cor- 
respondence of the early Caliphs and their addresses on different occasions 
of war, legislation, and administration are all marked by a simple and direct 
style flowing naturally from high concentration on purpose and thus surpassing 
all art. Yet they show all the dignity of authority. It will be remembered 
that orations and epistles were the two branches of literary composition which 
were specially favoured in early Islam by the needs of administration as well 
as congregational activity and social life. They only underwent a portentous 
change at the hands of the Persian secretaries, who introduced in the Arab 
chanceries all the fanfare of the Sassanian Court by way of pompous language 
and grandiose style. 

Early Works on Adab (Belles-lettres). — The early literary activity (apart 
from poetry) concerned itself mainly with compilation and narration rather 
than personal creation. The scholars and the students were content with 
collections of texts and explanations of important pieces of poetry, proverbs, 
orations, sayings of prophets and wise men, historical narratives, and witti- 
cism — all considered to be the necessary equipment of polite education and 
moral instruction. These collections were like packets in which the knowledge 
of their compilers was lumped together without any systematic arrangement 
or classification, the compilers themselves contributing only a few comments 
here and there. Only ibn Qutaibah (d. 276/889-90) introduced some order 
into the invaluable chaos. 

The beginning of original production was closely bound up with an interest 
in man and his natural surroundings. Curiously enough, this interest was 
roused by the rivalry among the various nationalities within the 'Abbasid 
Empire. The political and social conditions of the time promoted interesting, 
even though acrimonious, discourses on the characteristics — physical, tem- 
peramental, and cultural — of the peoples of different lands as exhibited in 
their current behaviour and past history. Al-Jahiz(d. 255/868-69), one of the 
first Mu'tazilites to study the Greek naturalists, endowed these discourses 
with the superb literary form of causerie or short tract characterized by a 
combination of erudition and artistic skill with the spirit of reliance on facts 
of observation and history rather than on speculative deductions. Thus, highly 
scientific data, worthy of a Darwin, relating to the processes of adaptation 
between man and nature, came to form the theme of high literature and art. 
Al-Jabiz's "Book on Animals" (Kitab al-Hayawan), a fine specimen of the 
wedlock between art and science, is a definite gain to literature and a high 
compliment to the general culture of the time. Only one is left wondering 
whether science would not have prospered better by an early separation 
from its charming companion. 

Popular Anecdote. — Beyond the circle of scholars and students the 
interest of the common people lay in the anecdote couched in simple, un- 
sophisticated language. They sought fight entertainment by listening to stories 
of love or adventure or a blend of both. Apart from the pre-Islamic lore, the 


Arabic Literature: Poetic and Prose Forms 

wars of Islamic conquest lay handy for the purpose and were specially suited 
to satisfy at the same time religious fervour, national pride, and the instinctive 
love of adventure. There is ample evidence to show that the conquests were 
actually the subject of a saga which, however, could enter the books only 
surreptitiously. Two other streams contributed to the fund of anecdotes in 
the early Islamic period: first, the South Arabian lore in which the Umay- 
yads took particular interest as part of the glorification of the Arabs, and, 
secondly, the Jewish religious lore which was widely and indiscriminately drawn 
upon by the qassas (religious sermonizers). None of these stories, however, could 
find artistic presentation because the regard for historical truth prevented 
their incorporation in book form: the dangers which were guarded against 
are illustrated by the corruptions that evaded detection and are found today 
here and there. Even when they were collected in book form at a very late 
period they continued to be regarded below the dignity of a scholar. Of 
course, the stories of love which were not liable to be mixed up with religion 
and history were given freer admittance to the literary circles, but even 
these (e. g., the story of the ideal love of Majnun or the profane love of Waddah 
al-Yaman) were recalled only with reference to poetry and seldom took any 
definite artistic form in prose. Whatever form these popular stories possess 
has only been achieved effortlessly through common repetition. 

Story Cycles. — The indigenous stories of love alluded to above were 
simple incidents which could not keep the attention of the samar-hungry 
audience for any considerable time. As town life grew, the need was felt for 
cycles of stories or stories within a story, separate yet interconnected with 
a string plot which would keep the curiosity on its edge for as long as "Thou- 
sand and One Nights." This need was met, in the first instance, by import 
from Persia, which had long been known to be the storehouse for such stories. 
The Persian afsdnah, the prototype of the Arabic story cycles, had passion, 
wonder, and surprise as the keynotes of its content; it is the quest for the 
wonderful and the surprising which brings in supernatural elements and magic 
to heighten the effects of adventure, and treachery and moral depravity to 
enhance love. This element of wilful selection and exaggeration of the unusual 
in actual life should not be overlooked in making any sweeping generalizations 
in regard to the state of society. The overtone is particularly deceptive in 
regard to historical personalities as, for example, Harun al-Rashid, who, 
though he indulged in luxury and sensuous pleasure in private fife, would 
never allow any lapse from dignity and moral propriety in public. It was 
perhaps in the original core of Hazar Afsdnah itself that popularly idealized 
historical personalities were woven into the texture with a view to imparting 
a touch of reality to the fiction. Yet it is remarkable that this particular 
branch, as contrasted with that of Kalilah wa Dimnah, was successfully 
cultivated at Baghdad and Cairo. The anonymous rnaddahs went on dressing 
up the borrowed material and augmenting it with their own creation until 
the whole stock was moulded into a more or less fixed but sufficiently polished 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

form. The professionals, whose job was gradually reduced to vocal performance, 
often to the accompaniment of simple instrumental music, circulated and 
transmitted the stock by oral tradition among themselves until it was redacted 
in book form in about the ninth/fifteenth century. The form and the content 
of these story cycles would be better appreciated if it is constantly kept in 
view that they were never meant to be read; they were recited to an audience 
seeking mental relaxation rather than intellectual satisfaction. They were 
designed simply to amuse and not to popularize or criticize any particular 
view of society. Rather the surmise is that they were secretly helped into 
circulation by the powers that were interested in turning the attention of 
the masses away from political and social problems. Hence all the emphasis 
is on the tempo of action to the subservience of everything else. Further, in 
the very nature of circumstances, the style and the diction could only be such 
as were regarded elegant and interesting by the standards and taste of the 
common people. It really reflects very well on the common culture of those 
days when people could learn how to appreciate and enjoy elegance of language 
in their ordinary social surroundings without necessarily studying at school. 
But after all the story cycles were never regarded as a piece of literature 
(adab) and were never read and taught by scholars as such. It was only in 
the West that the scholars thought it worthwhile to devote time to the Alf 
Lailah wa Lailah. 

The Siratu 'Antar, another notable work of the same class, bears the impress 
of conscious art, its texture being loose-rhymed prose embroidered with some 
ten thousand verses. In point of content, a hero of the pre-Islamic times is 
made to live through five hundred years of Islam down to the Crusades, 
personifying in himself all the chivalry of the famous knights of Islamic 
history as well as the legends of the Persian epic. It sprang into popularity 
in the tense atmosphere of the Crusades and represents fully the peculiar 
temperament of the time. 

High-class Fiction.— It will be seen from the preceding two paragraphs 
that the imagination of the Muslim masses, like that of the masses of any 
other people, was strongly tempted to dramatize history and to develop the 
hard core of facts into fabulous stories. But such a pursuit was totally barred 
to a Muslim scholar by his high sense of intellectual honesty and academic 
responsibility cognate with the sanctimonious regard for religious purity. As 
fiction was disdained and frowned upon by the cultured, it was condemned 
and relegated to the circles of the common people. Pure fiction, which 
posed no danger of distortion to valuable fact, was quite welcome in literary 
circles. But, again, the literati were earnest people who would relish a fable 
only if it had some moral import in the manner of the stories of the Qur'an. 
It will, however, be observed that the reliance of the Qur'an on the known 
incidents of history, rather than fables, to point a moral is highly significant 
as being in full accord with the peculiar temperament of the Arab. Not 
that the Arab was weak in imagination; he only considered it somewhat 

Arabic Literature: Poetic and Prose Forms 

childish to invent fictitious tales, which is best evidenced by the clear absence 
of a mythology even in the pre-Islamic days. He was indeed very fond of 
moralizing but would do so only through direct, pithy, and pointed proverbial 
sayings supported by illustrations from real life. The style of the Qur'an in 
this respect stands in sharp contrast with that of the sacred books of India, 
which seek to convey the truth mainly through fables. Thus, it was only 
when highly cultured Persians consecrated themselves to the service of 
Arabic that the treasures of the Indo-Persian tradition were transferred 
into this language. As these were mere translations, their contents do not 
belong to Arabic: only the use of the artistic form of Arabic for this kind 
of composition was a notable innovation. The rendering of the Kalllah wa 
Dimnah by ibn al-Muqaffa' was designed to be read by the educated 
class who relished it for its moralizing on the conduct of private and public 
affairs. It was warmly appreciated as a novelty and versified more than once, 
but the attempts at imitation of the model failed to achieve any considerable 
measure of success. Thus, pure fiction too, like the fanciful encrustment of 
history and religion, fell to the lot of the common people who indulged in 
it for sheer amusement. 

The unproductivity of the Arab-Islamic milieu, so far as high-class fiction 
is concerned, has only to be viewed by the side of unparalleled success in the 
preservation of the religious texts, the scrupulous eschewing of the subjective 
element in historical annals, and the evolution of a full-fledged science for 
establishing the authenticity of a text with reference to the character of the 
narrator. In short, the learned and the scholarly devoted themselves to check- 
ing the rampancy of the imagination of the unlettered rather than giving 
free reins to their own fancy. Further, the authority of the Sharl'ah left no 
need for any emotional pleading or intellectual canvassing by dramatization 
of social problems; hence the absence of the story or the novel except for 
literary and philosophical themes. 

Literary Epistle (Risalah) and Rhetorical Maqamah. — The extraordinary 
interest in linguistic studies provided a scholar in early Islam with 
a vast fund of vocabulary and usage as well as a sense of elegance and beauty 
in expression. He, however, waited for events and occasions in actual fife 
to put his knowledge and skill to use ; hence the absence of any prose form 
other than the oration and the epistle. The disputations on the merits of the 
various nationalities and different classes of people brought into vogue for 
a while the short topical essay. But the natural, forthright style soon started 
soaring high at the hands of the Persian scribes until it became thoroughly 
inflated and encumbered. To this encumbrance the Christian scribes further 
added the embellishment of saj\ and the over-played art degenerated into 
tiresome gymnastics. There was, however, some expansion in the range of the 
epistlecum-essay writing, which opened up a welcome outlet for literary skill. 
Tracts on the rules of good conduct were very popular, some of which on 
Persian model were meant specially for kings, while others were addressed to all 

A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
classes. Similarly, there was a plethora of manuals of instruction through which 
all men of consequence were eager to communicate their wisdom. But the most 
important branch conducted merely for the sake of pleasure was "letters" 
addressed to fellow-scholars and patrons touching upon purely academic and 
literary problems. Pride and rivalry helped to impart zest to such a pursuit. 
The style was high-flown and ornate with the obtrusive aim of pedantry. A 
further development of this tradition of the literary epistle (al-risdlah) was 
the maqdmah, which represents perhaps the first attempt to invent a loose 
framework of picaresque romance for the display of one's literary knowledge 
and skill. The idea must have been suggested by the presence of a real character 
in the Arabicized Persian society of the time — a witty and somewhat un- 
scrupulous prodigy of letters, devoid of patronage from high-ups and loth to 
engage himself in any lucrative work, thus compelled to shift for him self 
by roving from town to town and "begging" by the public display of feats 
of improvization on the interesting and instructive situations of life. The 
emphasis is, no doubt, on an exhibition of linguistic virtuousity but there is 
throughout a vein of witticism which is sometimes employed for parodying 
society, manners, and peoples. As this form came to be the dominant one in 
Arabic prose, a large variety of it depicting incidents and situations con- 
cerning particular classes such as the 'uktma' and the lovers, was success- 
fully attempted in every age. It has throughout remained a typically indigenous 
product, specially suited to the equipment and training of the Arabic scholar 
as alluded to above. 

Development of the Story for Literary Theme. — The significance of the 
maqdmah lay in the Arabic scholar at last condescending to create out of 
imagination the framework of a story, however short and undeveloped, with 
a view to displaying his profuse but pent-up literary skUK For the newly 
released fancy abu al-'AIa' al-Ma'arri borrowed the wings of the popular 
traditions relating to the Prophet's Ascension (al-mi'raj) to the heavens. 
His Risalat al- Ghufrdn is really a maqdmah cycle under the overall covering 
of a risalak. The story is no more than a frail show-case to display the author's 
store of knowledge, just a device to string together a series of expositions of 
problems and judgments relating to poetry, literature, and grammar. As the 
author was also a philosopher and a critical observer of beliefs and practices, 
he brought out the witticism characteristic of the maqdmah for an audacious 
burlesque of contemporary state of learning and society, which imparted a 
unique quality to the work. The style excelled only in pedantry and artificial 
beauty. Yet the review of the entire field of literature, beliefs, morals, and 
manners in the course of an imaginary flight remained the high-watermark 
of the traditional Arabic scholarship. 

Story for the Philosophical Theme. — The philosophical romance of ibn 
Tufail (d. 580/1184) entitled Hayy Bin Yaqzdn is a complete surprise in Arabic 
literature in more than one way. Here for the first time we have the plot 
as the main concern of the author. Sufficient attention is also paid to 

Arabic Literature : Poetic and Prose Forms 

characterization and setting. The style is subordinated to the theme. It will be 
recalled that the general body of Muslim philosophers had been confronted 
with a two-fold problem: the capability of reason to attain to reality 
unaided by revelation, and the identity of reality notwithstanding the 
difference in the source and the categories of knowledge imparted by 
religion. Soon intuition, the fortius gaudens, achieved a lasting victory over 
both. On the one hand, it established its claim to be the essence of religion 
and, on the other, it was recognized as the higher form of philosophy. The 
importance of the latter development, which was by far the greater victory, 
has not often been fully appreciated. It was a momentous step indeed to 
accept intuition as part of a man's natural equipment, cognate with reason, 
for the "realization" of truth. Anyway, it was for the purpose of explaining 
all these points together that the philosophers conjured up the vision of a 
Solitary Man, cut oif from all knowledge of religion yet attaining to a vision 
of God through the proper use and development of his faculties alone. 

Historical Writing. — The Arabic historian was solely concerned with 
the preservation of authentic records. He would not digest the facts and 
attempt at their reconstruction and interpretation for the reader. The merit 
of a historian like al-Tabari (d. 310/922-23) lay only in the extent and variety 
of his information ; his own personality could be discerned only in the indica- 
tion here and there of a preference for one of the several versions of a particular 
event. This self-imposed restraint on the part of the historian, like the similar 
scruples of the adab producer, betokened only high devotion to truth nurtured 
by the traditions of religious sciences. As a matter of fact, it proved to 
be a valuable asset in eliminating, so to say, the middlemen, and enabling 
all posterity to get a purely objective view of the past. Even when the annalistic 
framework was not strictly adhered to and the method of topical historio- 
graphy was initiated by al-Mas'udi (d. 345/956-57) the style continued to be 
dominated by reporting. However, this deliberate suppression of the personal 
element contributed to the lack of any prose form for historical writing. 
Such development had to wait till the beginning of the eighth/fourteenth 
century when ibn al-Tiqtaqa produced his book al-Fahhri. Keeping in view 
the fact of its being an innovation, the success achieved was remarkable. 
A lucid and fluent yet brilliant style is applied to carefully selected facts 
combined with appropriate comments. But again thi3 admirable example was 
not sufficiently followed up. Bather the main development, from which ibn 
al-Tiqtaqa revolted consciously, had already proceeded far on the lines of 
the transference and application of the epistolary style — grand and verbose, 
as already noted — to historiography. It was fortunate indeed that this style 
was carried to palpable absurdity quite early by al-'Utbi (d. 427/1035-36). It 
was decisively rejected by the Arab taste only to find favourable development 
in Persian. Court patronage of the historians also brought in the need for 
flattery and exaggeration, but it must be said in fairness that the historian 
did not absolve himself totally of regard for truth in the manner of poets. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

On the whole, the style of the official amanuenses and the Court historians of 
the late 'Abbasid period belongs to the same genre. 

The best examples of Arabic historical prose, both in regard to form and 
content, are the private memoirs of personal experiences of war and peace 
like the Kitdb al-Ftibar of 'Uthman ibn Munqidh (d. 584/1188-89), and the 
accounts of travels. In the latter class of works one finds not only observation 
and effective narration but also the author's own appraisal of personalities 
and events in the light of history and contemporary society. Generally, the 
style is simple and natural and even where art is displayed, as in the case 
of ibn Jubair (d. 614/1217-18), it is not overplayed at the expense of the 
content. Al-Ghazali's al-Munqidh min al-Dalal forms a class by itself— an 
autobiographical account of mental conflict and spiritual quest written with 
such, simplicity and naturalness as defy all art. 

Influence on the TF&st— Looking in retrospect over the entire field of 
Arabic prose and poetry, the general reader will not fail to be struck particu- 
larly with a few features which stand out prominently. First, there is the 
perfect symmetry, so characteristic of all Muslim art, the unfaltering rhythm, 
and the regular rhyme which at once give the general impression of order, 
system, and exquisiteness in the construction of the verse. Secondly, there 
is the entire scheme of romantic love as embodied in the tradition of the 
ghazai. It is not fully appreciated, especially among the Muslims who 
take it as a matter of course, how much the Islamic outlook on woman and 
sex relationship has to do with the sentimental romantic love. Love as an 
art can only flourish in a society where the company of woman is sublimated 
into a virtue. A further condition for the growth of romanticism is the 
recognition of certain ethical rules for courtship, a certain idealization of 
restraint. Such restraint is only symbolic of awe for the independent will of a 
separate individuality (best exemplified in the economic rights of women in 
Islam) coupled with a tenderly appreciation— so different from lustful 
exploitation— of the frailty and delicacy of the feminine constitutional and 
sentimental make-up. In the blind fervour of the extremist revolt against 
the denial of human rights to women in the West, this last basis of all chivalry 
and romance is much liable to be forgotten. Anyway, it was these two fea- 
tures—the exquisite form and the romantic contentn-of the Andalusian 
poetry which impressed the troubadours of Provence so deeply. Needless to 
say that lyrical poetry of romantic love had a special development in Spain 
so as to become unique even in Arabic. In the same way the strophic verse 
blossomed in Spain as nowhere else. The tradition, however, goes back to 
the Umayyad ghazai with Islam intervenning between it and the frank hedon- 
ism of the jahillyyah. 

Turning to prose, one finds Arabic offering, at its best, aphorisms, apologues, 
popular fables characterized by the spirit of adventure, and picaresque 
romance (maqamah). Actually, these were the very curiosities which achieved 
a ready success in medieval Europe through oral transmission and book 

Arabic Literature : Grammar and Lexicography 

translation. It was not very appropriate indeed that works like the Arabian 
Nights, which were meant only for recital in the market-place, were read in 
book form in Europe. This was bound to produce a certain revulsion at a 
later period when they were found to be devoid of the finer elements of literary 
art. Anyhow, "orientalism" — :a touch of the fabulous, the wonderful, and the 
exotic— entered the thought-processes of the European writers and poets. 
Still more important is the percolation of some of the higher devices resting 
on characteristically Islamic traditions like the mVraj into the Divina Corn- 
media and the Solitary Man into Robinson Crusoe. 


Ibn Khaldun, Mttqaddimah; Jurji Zaidan, Tarikh al-Adab al- c Arabiyyah; Ahmad 
Amin, Fajr al-Islam, Duha al-Islam, and Zuhr al-Islam; Taha Husain, Hadith 
al-Arba'ah, Parts I and II ; Zaki Mubarak, al-Mada'ih al-Nabawiyyah, Cairo, 1935; 
H. A. R. Gibb, "Literature," The Legacy of Islam. 

Chapter LI 


The intellectual activity of the early Muslims stemmed directly from their 
devotion to religion. The Arabs had throughout been sensitively proud of 
their language ; contacts with foreigners were regarded by them as derogatory to 
pure Arabism. However, before Islam any corruption of the dialect was 
but a social drawback; after Islam any lapse from the norm inevitably led 
to distortion of the sacred text with dire consequences both in this as well 
as in the next world. Curiously enough, it was Islam itself which brought about 
the commingling of the Arabs with the non- Arabs on a vast and unprecedented 
scale. In the very second decade of the Hijrah the Arabs were carried on the 
crest of a wave of military conquests across the bounds of their homeland 
to settle down in the neighbouring countries of Iraq, Persia, Syria, and Egypt. 
At the same time there was a large influx of aliens, mostly prisoners of war, 
into the principal towns — Makkah and Madinah — of Arabia itself. Before long 
there appeared for the first time in history a considerable and growing number 
of neophytes seeking initiation into Arab society with a conscious effort to 
learn, imbibe, and serve that new religious culture which was only couched in 
Arabic and had its prototype in Arab milieu. Naturally enough, the inaptitude 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

of these neophytes in the use of the Arabic tongue excited the laughter of the 
younger folk in Arab households; it also shocked the elders as it amounted 
to inadvertent profanity and distortion of the Qur'anic verses. 1 The corruptive 
effects on the new generation of the Arabs— the townsmen among them— 
were no less disconcerting; the daily usages marked a sharp decline from the 
Qur'anic idiom. Thus, there is little doubt that about the middle of the first 
century of the Hijrah the Muslims were squarely face to face with their fore- 
most literary problem, viz., the need for the preservation of the Qur'an. 
The Arabs needed reinforcing their own natural way of speech with a discipline 
of conscious effort; they were also eager, in keeping with the true spirit of 
Islam, to pass on to the myriads of non-Arabs, who daily swelled the ranks 
of the faithful, not only the religion and the practices of Islam but also the 
language as a key to a first-hand knowledge of its primary source or sources. 2 
Actually, however, only a few of the Arabs concerned themselves with those 
branches of studies which involved the use of the method of qiyas, i.e., 
analogy and deduction. 3 Such creative intellectual activity was notably a flair 
of the non-Arab inhabitants of Iraq, which province occupied a unique 
position in the incipient literary life of Islam. It is worthwhile recalling that 
the province had been the cradle of ancient civilizations and the nursery of 
cultural currents from the Hellenes, including those relayed from the important 
academy at Jundi-Shapur; hence, the mental attitudes of its inhabitants bore 
the stamp of philosophical and scientific discipline. Still more remarkable was 
the spirit motivating the political relationship of these "intellectuals" with 
their proud and unlettered masters, the Arabs, and their peculiar religious 
and cultural propensities towards Islam and the Arabic language. In contrast 
with Syria and Egypt, it will be seen that the 'Ajamis of Iraq were from the 
very beginning determined to assert their own individuality, albeit only within 
the pale of Islam and on the ground of Arabs' own devotion to the Arabic 
language. Even the Shu'ubivyah movement, the outburst of an outraged 
sense of superiority of the Persians over the Arabs, involved no resilience from 
loyalty to the language of the Qur'an. It was a clear parallel to early Shi'ism. 
which was calculated to work out the political ascendancy of the Persians 
but only under the supreme and authoritarian overlordship of the House of 
the Arabian Prophet. Basrah and Kufah, the two cantonments of the Arabs, 
provided ideal conditions for fruitful contact between the Arabs and the 
non- Arabs. Of particular importance was the proximity of the two towns to 
the northern Arabian desert, long regarded as the preserve of the linguistic 

1 This is amply borne out by the different versions of what prompted abu 
al-Aswad al-Du'ali to turn to grammar. 

2 It is noteworthy that abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali, who showed himself genuinely 
anxious to help the non-Arabs learn Arabic and Islam, did so in spite of his 
jealousy of their prosperity and influence. There was not the slightest trace of 
any tendency among the Arabs to sit Brahman-like over the treasures of religious 

3 This applies equally to grammar and to al-ra'i in the realm of Fiqh. 


Arabic Literature : Grammar and Lexicography 

norm, and the market-place of al-Mirbad — on the outskirts of Basrah — was 
no less a close-by rendezvous of the A'rab (Bedouin Arabs of the desert) 
and the literati until the former, becoming aware of the demand, themselves 
came to offer their linguistic materials to the ilite of Iraq and western 

According to the classical tradition, it was abu al-Aswad (Zalim b. 'Amr) 
al-Du'ali (or al-Dili), a poet, warrior, and teacher (died in 69/688-89 at the age 
of 85), who took the first step to stem the tide of growing laxity and error 
in the use of the Arabic tongue. He was an active partisan of 'Ali in politics 
and actually fought against Mu'awiyah at Siffin. It is, therefore, no surprise 
that he should take pride in claiming that the rudiments of Arabic grammar 
were confided to him by 'Ali. This assertion can safely be dismissed as only 
an instance of the too frequent attempt to trace all learning to 'Ali, the "Gate- 
way of the City of Knowledge." It is also true that abu al-Aswad himself 
cannot be credited with having worked out the fundamentals of Arabic 
grammar as such. 4 But it is reasonably certain that he did institute some- 
thing which, to later historians of the development of grammar, appeared 
to be the genesis of it. Let us examine what it actually was. Till the time 
with which we are concerned, the Arabic script, originally taken over from the 
Syriac-Nabataean writing, remained without a system of i'rdb, i.e., vowel- 
marks. Nor was there any established practice as to i'jam, i.e., diacritical 
marks, to distinguish letters of similar shape. Of course, there was no urgent 
need for either so long as the main dependence was on memory and writing 
was regarded as a mere casual help. 6 In the context of the new demands made 
by the change in the social pattern, the alert and acute mind of abu al-Aswad 
realized the inadequacy of the written consonantal letter to evoke the correct 
unmarked vowel, which had ceased to come natural as of yore. He, therefore, 
must have been the first to conceive the idea of introducing some further aid 
to make the people "know and observe correct speech." It appears that at 
first the innovation was opposed by Ziyad b. Abihi, the Governor of Basrah, 
with whose sons abu al-Aswad might have discussed it. After some time, 
however, all conceded that it was absolutely needed and abu al-Aswad went 
forward to lay down the following system : 

(i) the vowel "a," the pronunciation of which needs a full upward opening 
(fathah) of the mouth, to be marked with a dot above a letter. 

(ii) the vowel "i," the pronunciation of which needs a little downward 
movement (kasrah) of the mouth, to be marked with a dot below the 

4 Encyclopaedia of Islam, "Abu al-Aswad." 

5 In the Islamic literary tradition, the written book long continued to serve 
merely as an aide memoire — a copy of what was preserved in memory and not 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

(iii) the vowel "u," the pronunciation of which needs a rounded closing 
(dammah) of the lips, to be marked with a dot in front of the letter. 6 

This system of dots is to be seen in one of the oldest copies of the Qur'an 
dated 77/696, now preserved in the National Library at Cairo. The text on 
parchment is in black, while the vowel-dots are in red, in accordance with 
the usual practice. It has been noted that a similar system of dots was in use 
in the writing of Syriac, and, though abu al-Aswad's contacts with the Syrians 
are not expressly alluded to, it stands more than probable that having realized 
the urgency he turned round and took the cue from his compatriots of the Syrian 
Christian Church. 7 

It is also possible, as some reports make out, that abu al-Aswad went a 
step further to propound some broad distinctions in the main parts of a sentence 
such as the subject and the predicate. On the whole, however, his contribution 
was merely to focus attention on the usage of vowel-endings as the distinctive 
characteristic of Arabic. Hence, observation of vowel-endings was desig- 
nated al-'Arabiyyah, i.e., the art of speech in the correct and characteristic 
Arab way. The use of vowel-endings itself was known as al-i'rab, i.e., rendering 
into the proper Arabic way. 8 The al-'Arabiyyah was undoubtedly an embryonic 
form of Arabic grammar. 

The emphasis on al-'Arabiyyah, grew in proportion to the need for saving 
the Qur'an from being consigned to antiquity. So far the method used was 
mere talqln, i.e., putting the particulars in the mouth of the pupil. Only the 
necessary terms and signs for indicating the different vowels in speech and 
writing had been devised. As yet there was no ta'Ul or reasoning on the basis 
of general principles governing the incidence of the i'rab. But certainly the 
i'rab was under intense and searching observation, from which it was not a 
far step to collecting a number of analogous examples and inducting from 
them some rules for general guidance. This was the beginning of the discovery 

6 It will be remarked that the other synonymns such as nasb, jarr, and raf 
also refer to the same varied movement of the mouth. Closely parallel to the Arabic 
terms are the Persian equivalents : zlr, zabar, and pish. 

7 The Syrian Christians of the West had another system, first introduced in 
second/eighth century, in which letters of the Greek alphabet (five altogether; 
Y, E, H, O, A), instead of the dots, were used as vowel-marks. At some later 
dete, not exactly ascertained, the Arabs also replaced the dots with letters of 
their own alphabet albeit in an abbreviated form: .n from |, — from <s (some- 
what doubtful), and 2. from j. Obviously, the change must have been necessitated 
by the use of dots for diacritical marks along with their use for vowel-marks. 
The diacritical marks are said to have been brought into somewhat systematic 
use at the behest of al-Hajjaj b. Yiisuf, the Governor of Iraq, by Nasr b. 'Asim 
(d. 89/708), who, remarkably enough, is also reckoned as one of the founders of 
Arabic grammar. For some time the two kinds of dots were distinguished by the 
different colours of the ink. The replacement of the vowel-dots with abbreviations 
of |, ts, and j is sometimes ascribed to al-Khalil b. Ahmad, which is supported 
by the title Kitah al-Naqt w-al-Shakl among his works. 

8 Al-Suyuti, al-Ashbahw-al.Naza'ir, Hyderabad, 1359/1940, I, p. 76. 


Arabic Literature : Grammar and Lexicography 

of the logical structure of the language which, in the words of Sarton, was 
as much a scientific discovery as, for example, the discovery of the anatomical 
structure of the human body. This scientific discovery, the Nahw proper, 
reached the proportions of a separate branch of study at Basrah with 'Abd 
Allah b. abi Ishaq al-Hadrami (d. 117/736) and his pupil, abu 'Amr 'Isa b. 
'Umar al-Thaqafi (d. 149/767). Both the teacher and the pupil were non- 
Arab clients (the latter being the client of none other than Khalid b. al- 
Walid) who relished putting the Arabs to shame on the score of incorrect 
speech. They had a reputation for boldness in 'ilal w-al-qiyds, i.e., induction 
of causes from an array of analogous examples. Even in the first flush of 
discovery, they were so confident of the principles arrived at that they did 
not mind criticizing on their basis the ancient model poets such as al- 
Nabighah, not to speak of the contemporary al-Farazdaq. When the latter 
composed a Vitriolic satire against his dogmatic critic, ibn abi Ishaq 
would only retaliate by pointing out a grammatical mistake even in the 
satirical verse. 8 The pupil elaborated the method explicitly, as in discovering 
principles which held good generally and in listing the deviations as lughal, 
i.e., exceptional usages. And it was he who embodied the results in two books 
said to have been the first on the subject. 

It must be noted that al-lafyn, i.e., incorrect speech, which gave stimulus 
to the thought of abu al-Aswad, had by the turn of the first/seventh century 
assumed alarming proportions. It had percolated to the ranks of the Mite 
of the Court and the administration as well as the circles of the learned such 
as the traditionists and the jurists. But the deterioration, far from inducing 
an attitude of toleration, gave rise to a strong reaction against what was 
regarded almost as a sin, and there was a determined effort not so much 
to preserve the purity of the Qur'anic text as to make the ordinary speech 
conform to the standards of its idiom. 10 It was at this very time that al-Nahw, 
the science of "the proper way of the speech of the Arabs" (ibn Jinni), was 
fully recognized as an independent branch of study and the term al-nahivi 
became widespread in popular parlance. 11 

The Basrah school reached its perfection in the following age, which pro- 
duced such giants as al-Khalil and Sibawaihi. Al-Khalil b. Ahmad, a truly 
versatile genius of Arab descent (al-Furhudi/al-Farahidi, al-Azdi), whose con- 
tribution alone would outweigh the achievement of the host of non-Arabs, 
was born in 100/718-19 and died some time between 170/786 and 175/791. 
There can be no greater testimony to his high powers of originality than the 
discovery of Arabic prosody without any previous pattern, taking his cue 
merely from the rhythmic beats of the smith's hammer. No surprise that 
after benefiting from the teachings of 'Isa b. 'Umar, he should have been able 
to elaborate the framework of Arabic grammar, a framework within which 

9 Al-Jumahi, Tabaqat, Dar al-Ma'arif, Cairo, 1952, pp. 16-17. 

10 J. Fuck, al- l Arabiyyah (Arabic translation), Cairo, 1951, pp. 26, 65, 74. 

11 Ibid., p. 30. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

dl-i'rab could be explained and reasoned out. But al-Khalil cared neither for 
fame nor for material gain; it is said of him that he lived in a state of abject 
penury while his pupils made a fortune with the learning imbibed from him. 
It fell to the lot of his Persian pupil Sibawaihi, 12 who also had direct contact 
with 'Isa b. 'Umar, to complete the work of al-Khalil and to arrange and 
produce his findings in concrete book form. Sibawaihi (abu Bishr 'Amr b. 
'Uthman b. Qanbar), a native of Shiraz who died at the young age of about 
forty years in the last quarter of the second century of the Hijrah, really 
proved to be another genius for comprehensiveness, if not so much for original- 
ity. His Kitab has throughout the ages been regarded as the final word on 
Arabic grammar and has become proverbial for its unique position in the 
field. Those who followed Sibawaihi right down to the present time could 
only comment upon, remove obscurities from, and arrange and rearrange 
the materials furnished in the "Book" without adding much to'it. 

It has been a vexed question as to whether the main concepts of Arabic 
grammar are an indigenous growth or they are traceable to some external 
pattern. Modern scholars have stumbled upon casual resemblances such as 
those with the Indian Praticakhyas, but they offer no secure ground- for any 
assumption of borrowing. It must be remembered that the Arabic grammar 
is concerned mainly with the i'rab, which is a peculiarity of the Arabic language 
and was actually realized and proudly asserted to be so by the early gram- 
marians. Hence, it is no less misleading to make much of the similarity be- 
tween the division of a word into ''ism," "fi'l," and "harf" in Arabic and the 
analogous categories in Syriac or Greek. Obviously, the Arabic grammarians 
had to chalk out and proceed on their own lines and, in fact, they have given 
us a fair idea of how they applied their efforts to the problem, which was 
peculiarly their own. As hinted earlier, they began by observing the various 
positions of the words in a sentence and the particular i'rab taken by them in 
those positions. 13 These positions came to be designated by distinctive terms 
and certain rules were laid as to the i'rab appropriate for those positions. 
These rules went on developing in the direction of reducing further and 
further the number of exceptions which would not admit of their general 
application. What helped the people of Iraq in this undertaking was a flair 
for 'ilal and qiyas, which was exhibited in an equal measure in grammatical 
and literary studies as well as in Fiqh and jurisprudence. 14 This flair certainly 

12 The reading "Sibuyah" is not supported by comparison with "Niftawaihi," 
which latter is in no doubt because of its occurrence in the rhyme of a verse. 
Vide ibn Khallikfin, Wafayat, "Ibrahim b. Muhammad b. 'Arafah." 

13 Cf. Fuck, op. cit., pp. U-12. 

14 What distinguished the Fiqh of abu Hanifah was exactly the same: the 
probing into the "efficient cause" f'illah) governing a number of given instances 
and then applying the same to unforeseen circumstances. The people of the Hijaz 
were extremely chary of such reasoning and it is no mere chance that they came 
to be notorious for their ignorance of grammar. It is remarkable that the opponents 
of abu Hanifah, who wanted to run down his school of Fiqh, thought it necessary 


Arabic Literature : Grammar and Lexicography 

bears the impress of Hellenism. Nevertheless, it remains a mere conjecture 
that the early Muslims took over anything specific from Greek sources in 
grammar, in the same way as it is a mere wishful thought that Fiqh is indebted 
to anything specific in the Roman Law. 15 

The cornerstone of Arabic grammar is the correlation of the i'rab of the 
different parts of a sentence based on the theory of an 'dmil, i.e., an efficient 
cause supposedly resident in one of the parts and governing the whole. The 
earliest trace of it is perhaps in the Kitab al-'Awamil of al-Khalil — a work 
known to us only by its title. But there is no reason to suppose that al-Khalil 
diverged in any way from the general line pursued thitherto by 'Isa b. 'Umar 
and others. Unless, therefore, this 'dmil theory is proved to have been for- 
mulated on a familiar pattern, the indebtedness of Arabic grammarians to 
any external source will remain highly problematic. 

There is, however, yet another development of Arabic grammar which is 
clearly and directly traceable to Greek influence. The most notable and 
lasting effect of the assimilation of Greek logic and philosophy in the 'Abbasid 
period was a general tendency to remould into logically defined systems almost 
all the nascent branches of learning, which until then lacked a rigid order. 
So far as Arabic grammar is concerned, this development took place when a 
Mu'tazilite Mutakallim and a nahtvi were combined in the person of abu al- 
Hasan 'Ali b. 'Isa al-Rummani (d. 384/994). Actually, the process must have 
started with the Kufan grammarian, al-Farra' (d. 207/822), who was also a 
Mu'tazilite. Under the patronage of al-Mamun he produced the Kitab al- 
Hudud, which must have been the first attempt, so to say, to "philosophize" 
Arabic grammar. However, the process reached its culmination in al- 
Rummani so as to justify his being credited with that highly conventional logical 
reasoning which has since formed such a notable feature of Arabic grammar. 
This new development is amply borne out by a saying that out of the three 
contemporaries the words of al-SIrafi (abu Sa'id al- Hasan b. 'Abd Allah) were 
thoroughly understood without a teacher, those of abu 'Ali (al- Hasan b. 
Ahmad) al-Farisi were only partly so, whereas those of al-Rummani were 
not intelligible at all. 18 Even abu 'Ali al-Farisi, who, according to the above 
testimony, was himself partly affected by the innovation, is reputed to have 
commented that if Nahw be what was expounded by al-Rummani, then he 
had nothing to do with it, and vice versa. Undoubtedly, al-Rummani did not 
bring out a new system of grammar; he only applied the methods and the 
jargon of Aristotelian logic to the adumbration of those nebulous conceptions 
which, in the simple language of the old tradition as represented by al-Sirafi, 
were easily comprehended by the average student. There was a similar 

to make fun of the application of his methods to grammar. Cf., Fuck, op. 
cit., p. 65. 

15 M. Hamidullah, "Influence of Roman Law on Muslim Law" — a paper read 
before the All -India Oriental Conference, December 1941. 

16 Yftqut, Mu'jam <d-Udaba\ " 'Ali b. 'Isa." 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

transformation in Arabic rhetorics too. Further, it will be noted that by this 
time the Arabs had acquired some familiarity with Greek grammar, which 
warranted their indulging in a comparison of its merits with those of Arabic 
grammar. But the latter was considered to have already possessed a separate 
entity with a different development. 

While the general trend at Basrah was to go ahead with the formulation 
of general rules, there also developed a reaction against the scant attention 
paid to the angularities of actual usage, which, however, came to the fore 
only when abu Ja'far (Muhammad b. abi Sarra 'Ali) al-Ru'asiyy took it over 
as the basis of the rival school of Kufah founded by him in the later half 
of the second/eighth century. The Kufans would assiduously collect such 
instances as violated the general rules of the Basrans and would treat them 
not as exceptions but as the basis of another general rule opposed to that 
of the Basrans. This school achieved a meteoric rise in importance under 
the favour of the 'Abbasid Caliphs. Two of its very influential representatives 
at the Court were: (a) al-Kisa'iyy (abu al- Hasan 'Ali b. Hamzah), the Persian 
pupil of both al-Khalil and abu Ja'far al-Ru'asiyy, who came to be regarded 
as the compeer of Imam abu Yusuf under Harun al-Rashid, and (b) al-Farra' 
(Yahya b. Ziyad), the Dailamite, who was appointed tutor to al-Mamun's 
sons and was designated as Amir al-Mu'minin in the realm of al-Nahw. 
Ultimately, however, Baghdad proved a veritable crucible for the gradual 
fusion of the two schools through interchange. From the end of the third/ 
ninth century onwards there flourished at the metropolis scholars who were 
free from prejudice for or against any particular town or tribe and were 
actuated by sheer academic interest and reasonableness. 

Just one more development may. be noted. Abu 'Ali al-Farisi, who has 
been mentioned above, had an illustrious pupil called 'Uthman b. Jinni (d. 
392/1002), the son of a Greek slave, regarded as the last of the philosopher- 
grammarians. But ibn Jinni did not help in clothing the 'amil theory with 
the armoury of logic ; rather he submitted the 'amil theory itself to the scrutiny 
of reason. The result was a scathing attack on the false notion that one parti- 
cular word in a sentence governed the whole. The hint dropped by ibn Jinni 
was picked up in far distant Spain by "ibn Madda'," the Zahirite Qadi 
of Cordova under the Muwahhids, who in his al-Radd 'ah, al-Nuhat attempted 
something in grammar akin to al-Ghazali's Takafut in philosophy. However, 
his attack, though not lacking in flashes of brilliance, remained a cry in wilder- 
ness as no alternative formulation of Arabic grammar on a basis other than 
the 'amil theory was ever achieved, far less accepted. 

To sum up, the inspiration for Arabic grammar came from religion ; the 
need for it was created by the commingling within Islam of the Arabs and the 
non-Arabs. The methods of observation and induction yielded the discovery 
of the main body of "laws" in the working of language; the only snag was 
that the laws of language are not so uniform and immutable as the laws of 
nature. The older school of grammarians at Basrah suffered from an immature 


Arabic Literature : Grammar and Lexicography 

pedantry which was aggravated by the desire of the non- Arabs among them 
to outdo the Arabs. At a very early time 'Isa b. 'Uraar had the temerity to 
boast in the presence of the Arab philologist, abu 'Amr b. al-'Ala', that he 
('Isa b. 'Umar) was a greater master of Arabic than Ma'add b. 'Adnan, the 
progenitor of the Arabs! And both 'Isa b. 'Umar and abu 'Amr b. al-'Ala' 
exhibited a tendency to prefer such readings of the Qur'an as, in their opinion, 
were more in consonance with the general rules of grammar. 17 This authori- 
tarianism on the part of the "wisdom of the school seeking to improve upon 
the facts" (Noldeke) was checked by the rise of the rival school of Kufah. 
Rather the latter erred on the other extreme ; it is said of al-Kisa'iyy that in 
his avid search for the unusual and the exceptional he would not pause to 
test the reliability of his sources. None the less, a relieving feature of the 
situation was that dogmatism always felt compelled to bow before actual usage, 
as typically exemplified in the contest between Sibawaihi and al-Kisa'iyy at 
the Court of Harun al-Rashid. 18 Ultimately, Baghdad provided the necessary 
atmosphere for the gradual shedding of prejudices and the engagement of all 
in a joint effort to erect a common edifice large enough to accommodate the 
conflicting viewpoints on most, if not all, of the established usage. The final 
success was vitiated by sporadic attempts at putting possible constructions 
on actual usage. This tendency was decried at the very start by 'Isa b. 'Umar, 19 
but it reappeared prominently later on and is justly parodied by abu al- 
'Ala' al-Ma'arri in his Risdlat al- Ghufran. 20 The instruments of Aristotelian 
logic helped to hammer out the crudities of enunciation and adumbration. 
Filially, there was an attempt to rebuild the entire system on a simpler basis 
other than the 'amil theory, which, however, did not fructify. On the whole, 
the Arabic grammar remains a magnificent achievement — religious in spirit, 

17 It must be pointed out that it was merely a choice from among the various 
current readings; there was no attempt to "correct" the Qur'an in line with usage 
elsewhere. As pointed out by Wolfensen, it is an entirely wrong and unscientific 
approach on the part of some Western scholars to judge and criticize the Qur'an 
on the basis of pre-Islamic poetry. Apart from any religious sentiment, the Qur'an 
is the oldest and the most reliable book ; other sources, though relating to anterior 
times, are posterior to it in point of actual compilation. Tarikh al-Lughat al-Samiy- 
yah, Cairo, 1926, pp. 169 et seq. 

18 The reference is to what is known as "al-Mas'alah al-Zunburiyyah." When 
Sibawaihi challenged al-Kisa'iyy on a point of grammar, the matter had to be 
referred for decision to the Arabs. It is alleged that the Arabs were bribed to save 
the face of the royal tutor. The incident affected Sibawaihi so deeply that perhaps 
it caused his death prematurely. 

19 Once when al-Kisa'iyy began giving the various grammatically correct readings 
of a particular phrase, 'Isa b. 'Umar rebuked him saying: "I want the actual way 
in which it is spoken by the Arabs." Yaqiit, op.cit., "'Isa b. 'Umar," last para- 
graph. This tendency is to be compared with the hiycd — permissible tricks for 
evading the Law — in which some of the legists exhibited their acumen. 

20 Al-Ma'arri contrives to bring the grammarians and the poets in the heaven 
together when the latter protest at the former's purely speculative interpretation 
of verses, e.g., p. 152 of the Risalah, ed. Bint al-Shati, Cairo. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

linguistic in material, scientific in methods, and logical in form— which has 
been eminently successful in preserving the Qur'an and keeping its idiom 
unchanged yet alive throughout the centuries. 


The preservation of the Qur'an involved the institution of such disciplines 
as would eifectively safeguard not only the authentic rendering of the text 
but also the warranted understanding of its import against error, corruption, 
or ignorance overtaking those for whom it was "plain Arabic" at the time. 
The former purpose was achieved through al- l Ar(Myyah, which later on 
developed into a full-fledged science under the name of al-Nahw. The next 
concern was naturally the meaning conveyed by the text. In the beginning, 
there could have been little difficulty about it in the same way as about the 
vocalization of the text which was just a matter of natural aptitude. 21 How- 
ever, with the lapse of time and the changes in the social pattern, uncertainties 
began to creep in around words and expressions which had gradually assumed 
an air of rarity. Obviously, the way to clearing such doubts and uncertainties 
was to search for the occurrence of those words and expressions in the speech 
of the Arabs elsewhere. 22 In doing so, care had to be taken that the citations 
should faithfully reflect the idiom of the time of the Prophet during which 
the Qur'an was revealed. That is to say, either the citations should belong 
to the period contemporary with, or immediately antecedent to, the Qur'an 
or be culled from the current usage of those whose social pattern had 
continued unchanged and who, therefore, could be relied upon to have pre- 
served the idiom from that time uncorrupted and untainted by extraneous 
influences. Consequently, a zealous hunt was afoot to collect and preserve 
as much of pre-Islamic poetry, proverbs, and orations as could be salvaged 
from the memories of the people together with the current idiom of the 
A'rab, i.e., the people of the desert impervious to influences from outside. 
The method of collection was identical with that of the collection of the 

The end of the first/seventh century witnessed the rise of a band of scholars 
specially noted for their profundity in the field of al-lughfih (Arabic usage) 

21 In the words of abu 'Ubaidah introducing his Majaz al-Qur'an: "The Qur'an 
was revealed in clear Arabic language and those who heard it recited by the Pro- 
phet had no need of asking for its meaning . . . ." 

22 Cf. the saying attributed to ibn 'Abbas: When you be in doubt about any 
rare expression of the Qur'an, seek it in poetry. Al-Suyuti, al-Muzhir, ed. 
Muhammad Ahmad Jad al-Maula and others, Cairo, II, p. 302. It was in 
consideration of this that linguistic studies were regarded an obligation on a par with 
the obligation of prayer ; cf. the verses (ibid.). Ibnal-Qatta' {al-Af'til, Hyderabad, p. 3) 
went so far as to declare that anyone who decries the poetry of the Arabs is a 
sinner, and the one who runs down their language is an infidel (kafir). 


Arabic Literature : Grammar and Lexicography 

with its ancillary branches of cd-shi'r (poetry), al-akhbdr (historical annals), 
al-ayydm (accounts of tribal wars), and al-ansdb (genealogies). The most pro- 
minent name among these scholars is that of abu 'Amr b. al-'Ala* (70/689- 
154/770), an Arab nobleman of Basrah and an associate of 'Isa b. 'Umar. 
His collection of Arabic philology, when piled up, touched the ceiling of his 
room. He set fire to this vast collection when he was overwhelmed by a fit 
of asceticism towards the end of his life. Yet he continued to be the primary 
source of knowledge for the next generation. 

While the process of collecting the vocabulary and the illustrations of its 
diverse uses was still going on, the genius of al-Khalil. whom we have mentioned 
before, burst with the idea of arranging and fitting the vocabulary into the 
orderly scheme of a lexicon. Actually, al-Khalil is known as the author of 
the first Arabic lexicon called the Kitab al-'Ain, but the authorship is a bit 
disputed. This much, however, is certain that even if the actual compilation 
was not exclusively or partially the work of al-Khalil. the idea of a lexicon 
and the scheme thereof were first conceived by him. Let us now examine 
what the scheme is like. 

Al-Khalil starts with (a) reducing all words to their roots, i.e., the radical 
letters (al-usul) which form an immutable kernel in contradistinction to 
those that are added (al-zawa'id) in the course of derivation and inflexion. 
Next (b) he classifies the roots according to the number of letters comprised 
in them: 2, 3, 4, and 5. Each class of words is then arranged in a separate 
part and even within each class special treatment under distinctive heading 
is resorted to in the case of words containing one or more of the vowels, 
double letters, or a Tiamzah. 

The above framework is in line with al-KhaliFs attempt at a computation 
of Arabic vocabulary, which is a further proof of his originality. This quest 
he pursued on the same structural basis in a mathematical way. By multiply- 
ing the 28 letters of the alphabet by 27 (28 minus 1 , to drop out double letters) 
he got 756 forms of the biliteral (there being no uniliterals in Arabic). 
Dividing this number by 2, he had 378 combinations irrespective of the 
order of the two letters. Taking these biliteral forms as one unit and adding 
a third letter to them, he worked out the number of triliteral forms and so 
on. It will be observed that the above method yielded the theoretically possible 
combinations of letters, all of which are not in actual use (musta'mal). Con- 
sequently, al-Khalil had to mention each and every possible combination and 
indicate if any specific forms were unused (muhmal). A further peculiarity, 
which made reference so difficult and cumbersome, was that in the arrange- 
ment of the lexicon he concerned himself merely with combinations of letters 
and mentioned all the forms yielded by a change of order of the letters under 
one and the same heading. For example, under MY one will find both MY 
and its reverse (maqlub), YM. 

Within the above framework, intrinsically scientific but practically un- 
handy, the order was according to the opening letter of the alphabet in the 


A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
words. But the order of the alphabet observed by al-Khalil was not free from 
novelty; the grouping was according to the part of the mouth, from down 
the throat right out to the lips, which produced the sound. This novelty has 
been aptly noted and the similarity between it and the practice of the Sanskrit 
lexicographers has aroused a good deal of speculation. There is no doubt 
that the present-day arrangement, based on grouping of words according to 
the shape of the letters in writing, was the one in common use even at that 
distant date, though the Arabs were also familiar with the order according 
to the abjad system, which was originally taken over from the Syriac (and 
Hebrew) along with the art of writing. 23 The phonetico-physiological system 
of al-Khalil was neither common at the time nor did it achieve popularity 
afterwards. But any significance which its similarity to that of Sanskrit 
might suggest is whittled down by due consideration of the fact that in all 
probability it developed indigenously out of the practice of the recitation 
of the Qur'an. With the emphasis on recitation it was but natural that pho- 
netics should receive special attention and that there be a grouping of letters 
on that basis. Actually, evidence is not wanting that the linguists did engage 
themselves in such a study; there were some differences too between the 
Basrans and the Kufans as to the order of the alphabet on the basis of phone- 
tics. 24 Moreover, al-Khalil also paid some regard to the frequency of the letters 
in use; otherwise *ain would not have come first in order. 25 

No doubt, the general lexicon of al-Khalil represented an idea much in 
advance of his time; for the following one century or so no one dared imitate, 
far less improve upon, his scheme. In the meantime, however, much valuable 
work was done in the form of small tracts comprising words, synonyms, and 
cognates with their fine shades of meaning grouped around particular subjects. 
Typical of such subjects are: al-ibil (the camel), al-matar (the rain), al-sildh 
(the weapons), and the like. Similarly, special features of the Arabic usage 
were also singled out for monographic treatment: (a) al-muthalkithat, (b) al- 
maqsur w-al-mamdud, (c) al-itbd' w-al-muzawajah, (d) al-ajnas, and (e) al- 
nawadir. Some philologists wrote running commentaries (concerned merely 
with the meaning of selected words and phrases supported with illustrations 
from other sources) on the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet under such 
captions as Qhanb al-Qur'an, Gharib al-Hadith, Majaz al-Qur'an, Ma'am al- 
Qur'an, etc. The veterans in this field were two Arabs and two non-Arabs, 
one of the latter being from the distant province of Sind: 

*» It was in that original source that numerical values were assigned to the letters 
in that order, which is still adhered to in Arabic and other Islamic languages for 
purposes of chronograms. The assertion by later Arab philologists that abjad, 
hawwaz, etc., were the names of the inventors of the art of writing (al-Suyuti, 
op tit II, p. 342) should be taken merely as a recollection of the old borrowing. 

» Ibn Duraid, Jamharat al-Lughah, Hyderabad, cf. the Preface; cf. also al- 
Suyuti, op. cit., I, p. 85. 

25 Al-Suyuti, op. cit., I, p. 90. 


Arabic Literature: Grammar and Lexicography 

(1) Al-Asma'i (abu Sa'id 'Abd al-Malik b. Quraib), an Arab of Basrah, was 
born in 122/739 or 123/740 and died in about 217/832. He amused Harfln al- 
Rashid with his stock of interesting anecdotes about the life of the A'rab, 

(2) Abu Zaid (Sa'id b. Aus) al-Ansari was another Arab of Basrah who 
reached Baghdad during the time of al-Mahdi and died about 215/830, then 
over ninety years of age. He was not inhibited by partisanship and eagerly 
learnt from al-Mufaddal and other Kufans. By common agreement, he is 
regarded as thoroughly trustworthy, though his pedantry is often a source 
of amusement. 

(3) Abu 'Ubaidah Ma'mar b. al-Muthanna, a ntavJa, said to have been of 
Persian Jewish descent, was born in 110/728 at Basrah where he spent most 
of his life. He was patronized by the Baramikah and was summoned to 
Baghdad by Hartin al-Rashid to read his works to him. While rendering 
yeoman service to the Arabic philological studies, he collected the muthdlib 
or the vices of the Arab tribes and caused such offence to tribal pride that 
at his death in 210/285 nobody attended his funeral. 

(4) Ibn al-A'rabi (abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad b. Ziyad) was the son of a 
Sindian slave and the foster-child of the famous Kiifan philologist, al-Mufaddal 
al-Dabbi. His prodigious memory was a storehouse of Arabic philology and 
folklore. Remarkably enough, he relied on his own independent sources and 
questioned not without success the authority of al-Asma'i and abu 'Ubaidah. 
He died about 231/845. 

The special treatises referred to above naturally swelled to a considerable 
extent the volume of material which lay ready at hand for incorporation in 
a general lexicon. Another such lexicon was produced, rather dictated mostly 
from memory, by ibn Duraid (abu Bakr Muhammad b. al- Hasan, born at 
Basrah in 223/837 and died 321/933) who enjoyed the patronage of the MIkalids 
of Fars. Though ibn Duraid claims that his work is much easier for reference 
than that of al-Khalil, the fact is that there is little improvement so far as 
the scheme, particularly the break-up of the vocabulary into structural cate- 
gories, is concerned. Even the irksome device which jumbles up all the orders, 
forward and reverse, of a combination of letters under one and the same head- 
ing, continues to be there. Only the phonetic order of the alphabet is discarded. 
Much of the confusion was caused by the nebulous state in which al-tasrif 
(etymology) happened to be at that time. There was so far no clarity as to 
the roots of words, particularly those containing a vowel, a double consonant, 
or a Tiamzah. Similarly, lack of clarity as to the distinction between al-usUl 
and al-zawa'id caused the different categories to be mixed up. As a matter 
of fact, it was this uncertainty which made it expedient for ibn Duraid to 
insert a miscellany here and there, apart from the nawadir or peculiar usages 
and expressions listed under appropriate captions at the end. 

There is indeed one important point of difference which is indicated by the 
very name, Jamharat al-Lughah. Ibn Duraid included in it only the familiar 
and the useful and eschewed the obsolete and the discordant. This was the 

A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
beginning of a process of subjecting to criticism and sifting out the useful 
and the dependable from the large mass of material left behind by the early 
scholars, who were concerned with collecting and recording whatever they 
came across. At the time when the mistakes were being corrected, an attempt 
was also made to supply the omissions in the works of the earlier authors. 
These, in short, are the new features noticeable in the lexicographical pro- 
ductions of the fourth/tenth century. Particularly notable in this respect is 
the Tahdkib, whose author, abu Mansflr Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Azhari 
(d. 370/980), a pupil of ibn Duraid, was urged to wanderlust in the desert 
for the collection of al-lughat. Incidentally, he fell a captive into the hands of 
a Bedouin tribe; this provided him with the desired opportunity. Equally 
important is al-Muhlt of al-Sahib b. 'Abbad, who died in 385/995. 

The culmination of the critical activity of the fourth/tenth century aiming 
at authenticity and comprehensiveness, was reached in the Sihah of al-Jauhari, 
abu Nasr Isma'il b. Hammad (died about 398/1007), a native of Farab who 
settled down at Nishapiir. The very name Sihah reminds one of the Sahlh 
of al-Bukhari. It has already been hinted at that the method of collecting 
al-lughat was essentially the same as the one applied to the collection of the 
traditions, only a higher degree of stringency was observed in the case of the latter 
than in that of the former. This is aptly illustrated by the example of al-Asma'i, 
who is held to be trustworthy in regard to Hadith, but he risks conjectures 
in matters pertaining to the lughcit and even embellishes anecdotes for the sake 
of amusement. 26 Anyway, it is worthwhile to note that even the nomenclature 
of the Hadith such as the mutawatir and the ahad was applied to the lughat 
and the degree of reliability of any particular usage determined accordingly. 
In the beginning it was not uncommon even to mention the isnad or the chain 
of narrators and to discuss the personal character and reputation of the 
transmitters. 37 Thus, a compendium of the Sahlh was sought to be arrived at 
in the field of lugh&t parallel to a similar, though much more scrupulously 
worked out, effort in the field of religious tradition. 28 It has, however, to 
be noticed that the Sihah suffered grievously from an unfortunate circum- 
stance : the author was overtaken by a fit of melancholy which rendered 
him incapable of revising the manuscript. Further, due to the absence of 
any authentic copy of the text, a good deal of corruption also set in. All 
this necessitated a re-examination of the work in glosses and commentaries 
by later writers. 

! * Cf. Ahmad Amin, Duha al-Isldm, Cairo, 1952, II, p. 301. Abu 'Ubaidah 
once ridiculed al-Asma'i's extreme cautiousness in the interpretation of the Qur'an 
by asking him whether he was sure of the meaning of al-hhvbz (bread). Cf. Y&qut, 
op. cit., "Ma'mar b. al-Muthanna." 

27 Al-Suyiiti, op. cit., I, pp. 118 et seq. 

88 Just because the sciences of al-Hadlth and al-lughah were recognized as twins, 
the highest academic title for the learned in either was the same, al-hafiz. Ibid., 
II, p. 312. 


Arabic Literature : Grammar and Lexicography 

The work of al-Jauhari was still more remarkable in another way. In it 
the entire vocabulary was integrated (instead of being split up into structural 
categories) and arranged in alphabetical order with first reference to the last 
letter and a second reference to its combination with the first. This new scheme 
at once became popular and was highly appreciated as particularly suited 
to a language in which the endings of the words had a unique importance 
for purposes of rhyme (qdfiyah and saj'). Apart from the merits of this integ- 
rated scheme, the development and standardization of al-tasrlf (etymology) 
at the hands of al-MazIni (abu 'Uthman Bakr b. Muhammad, d. 249/863), 
ibn Jinni, and al-Rummani during the course of the fourth/tenth century 
removed a good deal of the confusion which marred the works of al-Khalll 
and ibn Duraid. 

We have now reached a time when the Arabic vocabulary was supposed 
to have been exhaustively collected and the meanings of words established 
with reasonable certainty. Henceforth, efforts were directed at collecting the 
material scattered in the previous works either (a) in the form of large com- 
prehensive dictionaries or (b) in concise handy volumes designed for the ordi- 
nary student. Naturally, the latter often dispensed with illustrations and 
citations. The most important works of the former category are : 

(1) Al-Muhkam by the blind Spanish scholar, ibn Sidah (abu al- Hasan 
'Ali b. Ahmad ?, d. 460/1068), was held in great esteem for comprehensiveness 
and absolute reliability. But perhaps the author did not like innovations; 
hence he went back to the earliest model of al-Khalil for its arrangement. 

(2) Al- l Ubab (incomplete) was composed by Radi al-Din Hasan al-Saghani, 
born in Lahore in 570/1174. He settled at Baghdad where he dedicated 
his work to ibn al-'Alqami, the minister of al-Musta'sim, whence he was 
sent out twice as ambassador of the 'Abbasid Caliph to the Court of Htutmish 
at Delhi. 

(3) The Lisan al-'Arab was compiled by ibn Mukarram/ibn Manzur (Jamal 
al-Din Muhammad), who was born in 690/1291, and died at Cairo in 771/1369. 
It is expressly based on the works of ibn Duraid, al-Azhari, al-Jauhari, and 
ibn Sidah. 

Of the latter category, the work which achieved a high degree of popularity 
is the Qamus of Majd al-Din al-Firiizabadi (Muhammad b. Ya'qiib) who died 
in 816/1413. It draws upon al-Muhkam and al-'Vbdb. 

Yet another work which deserves special mention is the Asas al-Baldghah 
of the well-known Mu'tazilite al-Zamakhshari (abu al-Qasim Jar Allah 
Mahmud b. 'Umar, born 467/1074 and died 538/1143). The author was a native 
of Khwarizm who spent a long time in Makkah and Baghdad. He realized that 
the mere recording of meanings was an insufficient guide to the practical use 
of words. He, therefore, would give the occasions and the contexts in which 
the words were employed. What is still more remarkable is the arrangement 
of the Asm, which is in the alphabetical order with reference to the first (and 
then the second and so forth) letter of a word. That is to say, its arrangement 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

is exactly the same as has come into vogue in modern times since the impact 
of Western literary influences. 

It is interesting to note that the early trend towards compiling treatises 
dealing with words grouped around particular subjects did not die with the 
appearance of the general lexicons; it had an uninterrupted development 
on parallel lines. The greatest work of this kind is al-Mukhassas, a twin of 
the general lexicon, al-Mufykam, by the Andalusian ibn Sidah. In al-Mukhassas, 
the vocabulary is grouped under subject headings, e.g., the hair, the eye, etc., 
which are classified into "books" such as that or. "human body." Even if the 
position of al-Muhkam is not wholly unsurpassed, that of al-Mukf&ssas is 
definitely so. 

Once the framework of a general lexicon was fixed, the running commentaries 
on the rare and difficult words in the Qur'an and/or the Hadith were also 
brought under that form. 29 Similarly, no time was lost in extending the facility 
and the benefits of a general dictionary to the other specialized branches such 
as zoology, botany, biography, geography, bibliography, and finally the 
encyclopedias (al-mausu'at). It may be observed in this connection that 
interest in language and literature, which the scheme of a lexicon was originally 
designed to subserve, seldom disappeared in any of the works, however 
specialized and limited the scope of their treatment. It would, for example, 
be really odd to conceive of a zoologist or a geographer who was not familiar 
with the references in the Qur'an and the Hadith or who would be unable 
to recall poetry, proverbs, and pithy sayings concerning animals or towns. 
This all-pervading interest in humanities is perhaps the most valuable asset 
of Islamic culture. 

In conclusion, it will be recalled that the early philologists were fully con- 
scious of the sanctity of their task ; they showed themselves to be scrupulous 
in method and honest in purpose. But the scope of the linguistic studies was 
bound in course of time to extend beyond what was strictly relevant to the 
Qur'an and the Hadith. As the bounds of the sacred faded into those of the 
profane, the common failings of vanity, mere guess or conjecture, or even 
unguarded reliance on genuine misunderstandings, contributed to the inter- 
polation of the spurious. Also, as these studies came to be held in high esteem 
and patronized with abundant monetary gifts, the veterans in the field were 
sometimes tempted to window-dress faked rarities in their shop. But the 
probe into their personal weaknesses, so characteristic of Islamic religious 
and literary tradition, and the severe tests subsequently applied to their 
statements served to a large extent to clear the chaff from the grain. On the 
whole, there is no doubt that a fair degree of reliability was achieved. In the 
same way it is impossible to claim that the entire vocabulary and usage 
were exhausted, yet there is no gainsaying the fact that an enormous part 
of them was actually encompassed. The charge that the Arabic philologists 

' Cf. Kashj al-Zunun, II, pp. 1204-06. 


Arabic Literature : Theories of Literary Criticism 

concerned themselves too exclusively with the idiom of the Qur'an and 
showed no interest in contemporary deviations from the same, tantamounts 
to questioning their objective or purpose, which has been steadily confirmed 
throughout the ages. In regard to the scheme and the arrangement of a lexicon, 
the early pioneers proceeded on the basis of a scientific etymological analysis 
of the structure of the vocabulary. Practical convenience was achieved later in 
the superbly original plan of al-Jauhari, which remains the one specially 
suited to the genius of the language. Even the model which has become so 
popular in modern times is traceable to al-Zamakhshari. 


Al-Suyufci, al-Muzhir; Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Udaba'; ibn ghalttkan, Wafayat al- 
A'yan; ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah; Hajj Khalifah, Kashj al-Zunun; Jurji Zaid&n, 
Tdrikk al-Adab al-'Arabiyyah; Ahmad Amin, Duha al-Idam, Part II, Chap. VI; 
Zuhr al-Islam, Part II, Chaps. Ill and IV. 

Chapter LII 


In this account of the Arab contribution to the theories of literary criticism, 
the term "Arab" is used in a wide sense to include all the Arabic-speaking 
peoples, and the writers who used Arabic as their cultural medium, regardless 
of their racial origins. 

Literary criticism is also broadly used to cover the whole field of literary 
appreciation, analysis, judgment, and comparison on the practical as well as 
the theoretical side. In this broad sense, Baldghah — which concerns itself 
with the study of the figures of speech and the stylistic aspects of literature 
in general — may be included under literary criticism, at least of the golden 
era of the early centuries of Hijrah, although, generally speaking, the relation 
between the two is a matter of controversy. 

The period covered by our treatment is likewise a fairly long one. It extends 
from the first/seventh century to the present time, and it corresponds to the 
Islamic era in the history of the Arabs. For, although the Arabs achieved a 
high measure of perfection in their poetry two centuries before Islam, they 
did not reach the maturer stage of theorizing about literature and its excellence 
until their minds were stirred and stimulated by the call of the new religion 
that arose in their midst. The fact that the miraculous sign of the religion 
of Islam came in the form of a "Clear Arabic Book" was destined to play 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

an important role in Arabic language and literature, and consequently in 
the enrichment of Arabic literary criticism. 

From early times, the Arabs were noted for their literary excellence. Poetry 
and oratory were the chosen forms of their artistic expression. As early as the 
second half of the sixth century A.D., when Arabic poetry was in its flowering 
period, some rudimentary forms of practical criticism could be observed. 
These were preserved by narrators, and later recorded by the early authors 
of the general studies of the Arabic language and literature. Some time 
before Islam there grew a number of market-places in the Hijaz where people 
of different tribes used to assemble for trade as well as for literary contests. 
Names of recognized arbiters in those contests, such as that of al-Nabighah 
al-Thubyani, and their judgments and criticisms were handed down to posterity 
by the rdwls (transmitters). Naturally, very little explanation or justification 
was offered for such judgments, and very often one verse or one poem would 
be given as a ground for a high praise of a poet or for a comparison between 
two contestants in the market-place. Some of the Prophet's Companions 
were known for their appreciation and sound judgment of pre-Islamic poetry. 
The second Caliph 'Umar, for instance, was reported to hold that al-Nabighah 
was the greatest of the J&hiliyyah poets, and when he was asked the reason 
for this pronouncement, he answered: "Al-Nabighah never used redundant 
words, always avoided the uncouth in poetry, and never praised a person 
except for true merit." 

By the end of the first/seventh century Arabic culture had spread outside 
Arabia in various directions with the spread of Islam. The mind of the new 
Muslim community was getting ready for a general intellectual awakening. 
The first to reap the benefit of those efforts were the religious fields on one 
side and the linguistic and literary on the other. Some scholars busied them- 
selves with the explanation of the Qur'an and the understanding of its 
challenge of miraculous literary excellence. Others concentrated on tracing 
pure linguistic usages of the Arabic language and standardizing its grammar 
and syntax. Some directed their efforts to collecting pre-Islamic poetry and 
preserving it against loss. 

The stage was now set for the beginning of a golden era in authorship which 
lasted several centuries. The critical problems raised by the Arab authors 
during this period can be summed up under the following main heads: 
1. Literary aspect of the Qur'anic i'jaz (eloquence of discourse), and the 
extent to which literary criticism could aid in discovering the secrets of that 
i'jaz. 2. Unique and sometimes obscure usages of the Qur'anic style. 
3. Authenticity of literary texts transmitted by the ravns from pre-Islamic 
and early Islamic times. 4. Classification of the Arab poets, both Islamic 
and pre-Islamic. 5. Merits and demerits of the ancients and moderns in 
Arabic literature, and the controversies between traditionalists and innovators. 
6. Claims of meaning and expression to literary excellence. 7. Originality 
and imitation, and the phenomenon of plagiarism. 8. Nature of speech and 

Arabic Literature : Theories of Literary Criticism 

articulation. 9. Meaning and essence of literary excellence, in structure, 
signification, effectiveness, and formal beauty. 10. Definition of the figures 
of speech. 11. Standards for the comparison between rival poets. 12. Norms 
of excellence in the chief poetical arts, such as panegyric, satire, and elegy. 
13. Linguistic aspects of literary art. 

These various problems of literary criticism were treated sometimes sepa- 
rately in a specialized fashion, and sometimes together in manuals or text-books. 
The stylistic aspects in particular received a large share of the Arab authors' 
attention, and the researches around them grew until they formed a separate 
critical branch under the name of Balaghah. This was mainly the outcome of the 
Muslims' preoccupation with problems of the Qur'anic exegesis and i'jaz. Greek 
writings on rhetorics which were translated into Arabic as early as the third/ 
ninth century also contributed to the growth of the science of Balaghah. 
In fact, that science dominated the Arabic critical field all through the later 
centuries of Islam from the seventh/thirteenth to the twelfth/eighteenth. 

The above enumeration of the different aspects of Arabic literary criticism 
will indicate the immensity of its wealth, and the difficulty of separating the 
Arab contribution in this field from their contribution to the development 
of Arabic language and literature in general. Many a general book on literature, 
such as the Kitab al-Aghani (Book of Songs) by abu al-Faraj, would also 
claim a place among the books of literary criticism. The same can be said 
of books, such as al-Baqillani's I'jaz al-Qur'dn, which dealt exclusively with 
the unique excellence of the Qur'an. 

But in the following survey of the main features of Arabic literary criticism 
we shall limit ourselves to singling out some of its outstanding landmarks 
and making a brief halt at each of them. 

1. One of the early grammarians, philologists, and literary critics of the 
first stage in Arabic authorship was ibn Sallam (d. 231/845). His book Tabaqat 
al-Shu'ara' is representative of the critical attainments of his period. Criti- 
cism, he maintains, needs long training and experience, and a critic must be 
an expert on his subject and well versed in the practice of his art. In other 
words, taste alone does not meet the requirements of criticism, and must be 
supplemented by experience and long study. He also adds that poetry, like 
the sciences and other arts, needs its own special technique and culture. He 
was aware of the established truth that abundance of practical study is worth 
more than all academic knowledge. 

The second point stressed by ibn Sallam in his book is the importance of 
verifying the poetical texts and of ascertaining their origin. This is the first 
step in textual criticism and must be taken as its foundation. He directed 
a violent attack on the manner in which some Arab chroniclers accepted and 
narrated ancient poetry, and, therefore, questioned the authenticity of many 
of their texts. 

The other important point in ibn Sallam 's book is the division of poets 
into classes. With regard to time, poets were either Islamic or pre-Islamic. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

He tried to classify the poets of either era according to the abundance and 
excellence of their poetry. In his classification he also took into consideration 
the place of origin. 

Although ibn Sallam failed to support judgments he passed on poets and 
poetry by analysing the texts or describing the qualities of each particular 
poet, yet it must be admitted that Arabic criticism was taken by him a step 
further, especially as regards questions of verification and classification of 
poets. What we miss in his book, however, is criticism in the sense of a 
discerning study and a methodical approach. The first attempts at methods 
are not to be found earlier than the fourth/tenth century. 

Al-Jahiz (d. 255/869), who was one of the leading Mu'tazilites and writers 
of the third/ninth century, tried in his book al-Bayan w-al-Tabyin to give a 
picture of criticism in the pre-Islamic times and the first/seventh century. 
The criticism of that period, he maintained, was elementary, but, to a marked 
degree, sound and convincing, as it emanated from genuine practical literary 
taste. The critics of that period, according to him, managed to discover a 
number of defects in poetical craftsmanship and to give valuable practical 
advice to orators and poets. 

Al-Jahiz's book was an echo of the intellectual life of the Arabs of the third/ 
ninth century. At that time the mosques of Kiifah and Basrah were not only 
places for worship and administration of justice, but also schools for the teach- 
ing of language, grammar, Hadith, and jurisprudence, as well as platforms 
for narrators to relate to the assembled audiences the story of the Prophet's 
life and conquests. Leaders of theological schools and religious divisions used 
to go there for dialectical discussions, and a large number of people attended 
them in quest of knowledge. Anyone who spoke in the mosque had to possess the 
abflity to express himself clearly, to attract and persuade the audience. Thus, 
a new kind of study came into being to show the qualities an orator needed, 
and to point out the defects of different speeches. Observations on effective 
and defective public speaking contained in al-J&biz's book can be grouped 
under the following headings: (i) Correctness of pronunciation and defects 
caused by deformities of the vocal organs, (ii) Proper and improper employ- 
ment of language and harmonious and disharmonious use of words, (ill) 
Syntax and the relations between words and their meanings, clarity, concise- 
ness, suitability of expression to different occasions and audiences, and of 
speech to its intended objective, (iv) The appearance of the orators and the 
agreeableness of their gestures and mannerisms. 

Another third/ninth century literary celebrity was the writer ibn Qutaibah 
(d. 276/889), the author of many books on literature and Qur'anic usages. 
In one of his books, al-Shi'r w-al-Shu'ara', he urged people to form independent 
judgments and use their own power of appreciation. He attacked the philo- 
sophers' approach to criticism and their use of logical method in the apprecia- 
tion and analysis of literary texts. One of the critical problems he raised was 
that of the division of poets into those who deliberate upon, revise, and 

Arabic Literature : Theories of Literary Criticism 

perfect their poetical works, and those who depend on the spontaneity and easy 
flow of their poetic inspiration. He also opposed the tendency always to give 
preference to the ancients just because they were ancients. Literary talent, he 
argued, was not confined to any particular period. A modern poet might easily 
surpass an ancient in literary creativeness and workmanship. 

The contribution of the poet Prince *Abd Allah ibn al-Mu'tazz (d. 296/908) 
to the development of Arabic criticism and his influence on it were of a 
different character. He made a study of badi' which was considered in his days 
an innovation in the poetical art, and set out to prove that it was not a new 
creation at all. His book al-BadV was the first attempt at a systematic 
treatment of the figures of speech, which he divided into three main 
categories: (i) the metaphor which is the pillar-stone of poetry; (ii) artifices 
connected with the form only and not with the essence of poetry, such as 
assonance (tajnls) and antithesis (mutabaqah), and (iii) the dialectical 
style which takes the form of a logical argument (al-mabhath al-kaldmi). By 
quoting copious examples from the Qur'an, the Hadith, the speeches of the 
Prophet's Companions, and the language of the Bedouins, ibn al-Mu'tazz 
tried to show that the use of the figures of speech was inherent in the nature 
of poetry, and that the Arabs practised the art long before the time of Bash- 
shar, Muslim ibn al-Walid, and abu Nuwas. These modern poets of the 'Abbasid 
period did not invent the art but simply extended its use until it was thought 
a new creation. It is an open question whether ibn al-Mu'tazz was influenced, 
in his BadV, by Aristotle's writings, especially the Rhetorics translated into 
Arabic during the third/ninth and fourth/tenth centuries. But the treatment 
of ibn al-Mu'tazz has the unmistakable stamp of originality, and the subject 
seems to have begun to interest Arab critics in the second/eighth century 
as an Arabic literary phenomenon. The influence, if any, might be sought 
in the prominence given to metaphor and in the attempt at definition and 
division of literary artifices. 

But the real disciple of the philosophical sciences and the author who 
manifested Aristotle's influence very clearly was Qudamah ibn Ja'far (d. 
337/948). His book Naqd al-Shi'r is perhaps the first Arabic book to carry 
in its title the word naqd which is the Arabic equivalent of criticism. It is 
conceived and planned in the Aristotelian fashion of logical divisions and 
definitions. The author begins by defining poetry as regular speech with 
metres, rhymes, and meanings, proceeds to explain and justify this definition 
on logical grounds, and then adds words as the fourth element constituting 
poetry. Out of the relations between these four simple elements he creates 
four complex ones, which evolve out of the harmony between them. He 
points out that earlier Arab authors have neglected the critical side of the 
studies of the poetical art, and directed their energies to the less important 
aspects, namely, prosody and linguistic considerations. His, then, was an 
attempt to create a real science of criticism and set the norms of excellence 
for the principal categories of Arabic poetry. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

2- Arab contribution to literary criticism assumes clearer and maturer 
forms in the fourth/tenth century. On the specialized side we meet with 
al-Baqillani (d. 403/1012), who gives a scholarly account of the Qur'anic 
i'jdz; al-Amidi (d. 371/981), who leaves us the best classical Arabic comparison 
between two great poets, representatives of two schools of poetical art; and 
al-Qadi al-Jurjani (d. 366/976) the writer of the earliest critical treatise on a 
great Arabic figure in the literary history of the Arabs. On the general side, 
at least two contributions must be mentioned here. The first is that of abu 
al-Faraj al-Isfahani (d. 356/966), the writer of Kitdb al-Aghdni (the Book of 
Songs), a unique book of its kind in the literatures of the world. And the 
second is that of abu Hila.1 al-'Askari (d. 395/1004), who attempted to give a 
complete systematic manual of Arabic rhetorical and critical principles as they 
were known in his time. Now, to take the general contributions first. The 
"Book of Songs" is a literary encyclopedia, in twenty volumes, dealing es- 
sentially with lyrical poetry which was set to music and singing by the musicians 
and singers of the early centuries of Islam. But around this theme the author 
collected a large amount of critical and biographical information of a great 
number of Arab poets. The critical aspect of al- Aghdni has received the atten- 
tion of modern academic research. The wealth of narratives and biographical 
data contained in the book has been a boon to modern Arabic play and story- 

Al-'Askari made the two arts of poetry and prose the subject-matter of 
his treatment and tried to systematize and enlarge upon the earlier general 
attempts of al-Jahiz, ibn al-Mu'tazz, and Qudamah. The two Arabic rhetorical 
conceptions of jasahah and balaghah received at his hands satisfactory defini- 
tions, the first being connected with elegance and purity of style, and the 
second with communicating and conveying the desired meaning in a con- 
vincing and effective manner. Long chapters on distinguishing the good from 
the bad in speech, on the nature of literary art, and on the technique of com- 
position and good description, with copious examples of excellent poetry and 
prose, occupy about half the book. The rest is an enumeration and elucidation 
of literary artifices, the number of which al-'Askari raised to thirty-five, 
which is more than double the number given earlier by ibn al-Mu'tazz. 

Al-Jurjani's treatise on i'jdz takes its place among Arabic critical books 
on account of its attempt at applying the critical conceptions to reveal some 
of the secrets of the Qur'anic literary excellence. In doing this the author 
subjected some of the highly esteemed Arabic poems to a severe test of criti- 
cism to show the fallibility of human products. The Qur'anic i'jdz, he main- 
tained, was something more than and above that which critical standards could 
explain, something that could be felt more than known by the expert and 
cultured reader or listener. This theory of i'jdz, peculiar to Muslim culture, 
we meet again in a different setting when we come to 'Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani. 

The two treatises which exemplify Arabic criticism proper in its methodical 
form are those of al-Amidi and al-Qadi al-Jurjani referred to earlier. 

Arabic Literature: Theories of Literary Criticism 

Al-Amidl's Muwdzanah (Comparison) between abu Tammam and his disciple 
and kinsman al-Buhturi is the first systematic treatment of its kind in Arabic 
criticism. The author collects the common meanings between the two poets 
and, on the basis of a rigid comparison between each pair of words of similar 
meanings, decides which is more poetical in that particular context. He takes 
account of the supporters of each poet, reproduces the reasons given by them 
for their stand, and brings into relief the faults and plagiarisms of each 
of the two great poets. Although the subject of al-Amidi's study is a particular 
ease of comparison, and the features it concentrates on are the artistic and 
poetic ones only, it claims a high value because of its success in going beyond 
the particular comparison to a more general comparative study. It adopts 
the method of adducing comparable examples from the poetry of the fore- 
runnera of the two poets, thus enlarging its scope and claiming for it a larger 
share of critical accuracy. It exhibits the traditional literary models and reveals 
its author's wide knowledge of Arabic poetry and his cultivated analytical 
literary taste. It also gives one of the best practical accounts of the phenome- 
non of plagiarism, which greatly occupies the attention of Arabic critics, 
permeates a good deal of their comparative studies, and to some extent colours 
their judgments of literary values. 

Another valuable contribution in the fourth/tenth century to methodical 
criticism is the "Arbitration" (Wasdtah) of al-Qadi al-Jurjani between 
al-Mutanabbi, the famous Arab poet of the eastern Arab world of Islam, 
and his antagonists. Al-Mutanabbi, by bis arrogant personality, wide ambi- 
tion, and forceful poetry, created adversaries as well as staunch sup- 
porters wherever he went. Many grammarians, linguists, critics, and rival 
poets, shared in finding faults with his poetry and revealing plagiarisms, 
which, they claimed, he committed against previous masters of Arabic poetry, 
while others hailed him as the greatest Arab poet that ever lived. Many treatises 
were written about him. The situation called for a sympathetic arbiter, and 
al-Jurjani tried to play the role. His introduction to Wasdtah contains a 
good deal of theorizing about literature. An example of this is his interest- 
ing, and almost modern, analysis of poetical ability into four component 
factors: natural aptitude, intelligence, acquaintance with and memorization 
of past models, and practical training. These, he maintained, were factors of 
a general nature, applicable to all humanity, and not confined to a certain 
age or generation. Another example is the discussion of the influence of 
environment on poetry, with illustrative examples from the poetry of Bedouins 
and city-dwellers. All the different aspects of al-Mutanabbi's poetry, viz., his 
philosophizing tendency to complication, occasional leaning on previous poets, 
the system of building up his poem, and the use of badl', all received a masterly 
analysis at the hands of al-Jurjani. The book succeeds in giving a general 
picture of literary criticism in that period. It abounds in opinions of critical 
scholars and recalls many famous comparisons held between poets, both 
past and contemporary. In short, the Wasdtah of al-Jurjani along with the 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Muivazanak of al-Amidi represents the peak of practical Arabic criticism and 
illustrates the Arabs' mature efforts in that field of literary study. 

3. The climax of the Arab contribution to the theories of literary criticism 
is still to be reached in the fifth/eleventh century at the hands of 'Abd al- 
Qahir al-Jurjani {d. 471/1078), the author of the two well-known critical 
books: Dala'il al-Fjaz and Asrdr al-Baldghah. The first book, although pri- 
marily concerned with explaining the secrets and signs of the Qur'anic i'jaz, 
faces the wider issue of literary excellence in general and reaches a fundamental 
theory of structure, while the second searches deep into literary images and 
discovers, in the form of a psycho-literary theory, what the author takes to 
be the real secret of eloquence. Each of the two volumes advances a thesis, 
explains it, discusses its applications in different rhetorical species, and 
answers any adverse criticism which it might arouse. They survey the field 
of Arabic literary criticism in the author's time, point out the lack of true 
scientific thinking, and the preoccupation of authors with the non-essentials 
in literary art, and try to lay the foundations for a new science which 
would satisfy both the objective and the subjective aspects of literary apprecia- 
tion. A modern reader of the two books feels inclined to presume that 'Abd 
al-Qahir thought of literary composition in terms of its two-fold division of 
structure and beauty. But it is also possible that when the author wrote his 
first book he was mainly occupied with and guided by the thesis that eloquence 
is a product of correct structure and signification. At a later stage, and per- 
haps owing to other cultural influences and maturation of thought, he found 
that an important aspect of literary art, namely, its impact on the reader 
or the listener, still called for a separate and fuller treatment. The starting- 
point in his line of thinking in al-Dala'il was the consideration of the place 
of words and meanings in the art of expression. Some of the ancients, e.g., 
al-Jahiz, had considered eloquence to be mainly dependent on the quality 
of the verbal elements, that is, the words. But, argued 'Abd al-Qahir, words 
in themselves do not make language. They do so only when organized in a 
system of construction according to the requirements of the meaning. The 
important element in literary composition, then, is structure, and the essence 
of structure is meaning. Once meanings are defined in the intellect in their 
proper order, their verbal expressions follow faithfully in a determined 
fashion. A literary composition achieves its end if it is properly and suitably 
constructed. It becomes vague, obscure, complicated, and generally defective 
when the verbal element does not harmonize with the meanings, or when 
the meanings themselves are not clear and coherent in the mind of the speaker 
or the writer. Hence it follows that our main concern in rhetoric should be 
with techniques of structure, such as junction and disjunction, mention and 
omission, definitiveness and indefinitiveness, etc. Our chief occupation here 
should be the study of the characteristics of meanings in construction, which 
is a combination of language and grammar. This new technique was ably and 
effectively applied by 'Abd al-Qahir to the study of the Qur'anic composition, 


Arabic Literature : Theories of Literary Criticism 

and consequently to the analysis and appreciation of specimens of the highest 
literary models, and it yielded a complete system which later authors turned 
into a definite rhetorical branch, namely, the science of meanings (ma'ani). 

In this analysis of the Dala'il, 'Abd al-Qahir found himself repeatedly 
resorting to the process of introspection, and suggesting that the best way 
to discover the secret of literary excellence is to look inwardly into oneself 
and find out what impressions, satisfactions, emotions, and excitements the 
whole composition leaves on one's soul. It appears as if this aspect of literary 
art directed 'Abd al-Qahir, in his second book Asrdr al-Baldghah, to go 
deeper into the aesthetic side of literature and find out the secrets behind the 
feeling of enjoyment produced by beautiful literary works. Thus, the field 
of research was transferred to the laws of human thought. What goes on in 
our minds and souls when we hear a beautiful literary passage ? Why do such 
artifices as alliteration and assonance please us? And, why do such phenomena 
as superfluity and obscurity of expression displease us ? What is the secret 
behind the aesthetic effect of a good metaphor or a cleverly conceived com- 
pound simile ? Which is more appealing to our taste — the spontaneous and 
easy flowing poetry of al-Buhturi or the deep and meditative poetry of abu 
Tammam ? And why ? If we can refer such questions to some inherent charac- 
teristics in our perceptions and conceptions, in our cognition and imagination, 
we can be assured of a solid foundation for a study of literary appreciation. 
In this part of his inquiry 'Abd al-Qahir shifted the emphasis from constructing 
the meaning to communicating it in an effective and pleasing manner. The 
new domain of his study becomes the variety of ways and means for expressing 
the meaning in an artistic fashion. In this he showed himself to be clearly 
aware of the fact that literature is part of a wider field, namely, art. Occasionally 
in his analysis and argumentation he would appeal to other fine arts such 
as painting and sculpture. His approach in this second inquiry gave later 
authors the basis for creating the two separate rhetorical sciences, the science 
of exposition (bayan) and that of embellishment (badV). Put together, the 
results of his two inquiries could be summarized as follows : (a) Excellence in 
literature should be judged from the quality of the structure of the meaning 
expressed and its pleasing effect on the mind and soul of the reader (or listener) 
rather than from its verbal aspects, (b) The beauty of metaphors lies in the 
fact that they give to style novelty, vigour, and movement, and that they 
bring out the hidden shades into a perceptual relief, (c) Composite comparisons 
by similitude please the human understanding for a variety of reasons: all 
human souls enjoy being transferred from the hidden to the visible, from the 
abstract to the concrete, and from what is known by reflection to what is 
known intuitively or through sense-perception; man naturally enjoys seeing 
different things unified by links of similarities, and the enjoyment is enhanced 
when the discovery is reached after a reasonable amount of intellectual ac- 
tivity — if the intellectual activity involved is too little or too exacting, the 
enjoyment is diminished or marred ; the functions of the intellect are thinking, 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

reflection, analogy, and inference, and all these are exercised in creating and 
perceiving relations between different things; the rhetorical figures are the 
embodiments of all these considerations. 

In assessing the value and place of 'Abd al-Qahir's contribution to the 
theories of Arabic criticism, we must bear in mind two considerations: the 
first is that certain Arab scholars of the flourishing period of the third/ninth 
and fourth/tenth centuries did anticipate 'Abd al-Qahir in some aspects 
of his theory. Al-Jahiz, for example, discussed at length the art of oratory 
from the point of view of its relation to the audience and expressed, though 
briefly, the idea that good speech affects the heart in a variety of ways. Al- 
Qadi al-Jurjani also showed his interest in the psychology of literature and, 
as mentioned earlier, analysed in a psychological fashion the poetical ability 
into natural and acquired elements. The second consideration which has been 
explored by modern research is that 'Abd al-Qahir must have been acquainted 
with the Arabic versions of Aristotle's Poetica and Rhetoric where the First 
Master probes the affective side of literature both in his treatment of tragedy 
and in his exposition of the art of metaphor. These various probable anti- 
cipations, however, do not diminish the claim of our later Arab author to 
originality. It is to his lasting credit that in the sphere of a literary study he 
tried to harmonize the rigour of scientific thinking with the spontaneity of 
literary taste, and succeeded in this to a remarkable degree. 

4. We do not come across another great figure in the study of rhetoric 
during the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries A.H., like 'Abd al-Qahir, nor 
even a vigorous follower of the founder of the science to develop further his 
ideas and widen the scope of their application, yet during this period much 
was added to the wealth of Arab contribution to literary criticism, mostly in 
general comprehensive surveys. One of the great minds of that period is ibn 
Rashiq al-Qairawani (d. 436/1044), the author of a standard book on the art of 
poetry entitled al-'Umdah fi Mahdsin al-Shi'r wa Addbih. It is one of the fullest 
treatments of the technicalities of Arabic poetry and its principal kinds. Another 
fifth/eleventh-century critic is ibn Sinan al-Khafaji al-Halabi {d. 466/1073), the 
author of Sirr al-Fasahah. Ibn Sinan's chief contribution is in the domain 
of linguistic criticism where he deals with the sounds of the Arabic language, 
their classifications, and their characteristics. Al-Zamakhshari of Khwarizm 
(d. 538/1144), the Qur'anic commentator, deserves a special mention here 
because of his consistent application of the rhetorical approach to the explana- 
tion and interpretation of the Qur'an. His book al-Kashshaf claims a high 
place among the Qur'anic commentaries. He is also the compiler of Asas 
al-Baldghah, an Arabic dictionary, which is unique in its attention to original 
and metaphorical usages of the Arabic language. A later author and critic, 
Dia' al-Din ibn al-Athir (d. 637/1239), left us a most valuable and interesting 
book on the two arts, of the writer and of the poet, entitled al-Mathal al-Sd'ir. 
He dealt with the literary art in two sections: one on verbal expression and 
the other on meaning, and managed to include under these two headings all 

Arabic Literature : Theories of Literary Criticism 

the artifices and figures of speech which previous authors since the beginning 
of the third/ninth century had been exploring, defining, and illustrating. He 
also restated the problems of word and meaning, plagiarism, and norms of 
comparison in a masterly manner, exhibiting searching, analytical power and 
independence of thought. Moreover, he invented a practical method for the 
training of the undeveloped literary talent, which relied on two factors: the 
natural aptitude and the nourishing of the ability on classical models. The 
method is explained in detail, and illustrated from the history of literature 
as well as from the personal experience and literary works of the author. 
Ibn al-Athir was so convinced of the originality and applicability of his method 
that he claimed for himself the title of mujtahid or Imam in the same way 
as the founders of Muslim schools of jurisprudence, Malik and al-Shafi'i. for 
example, were regarded by posterity. 

We may end this series of the great minds with Yahya ibn Hamzah al- 
'Alawi (d. 729/1328), one of the Imams of Yemen and the author of al-Tiraz 
al-Mviadammin li Asrar al-BcU&ghah wa l Ulum Haqd'iq al-Fjdz. The author 
criticizes books on the subject of literary criticism for being too detailed and 
thus tedious, or else too brief and consequently insufficient. He acclaims 
'Abd al-Qahir as the founder of the science but confesses that he knew of his 
two books only indirectly through references to them in the writings of other 
scholars. He mentions some of the authors with whose books he was acquainted, 
including ibn al-Athir. The motive for writing his book, he indicates, was to help 
his students understand al-Zamakhsbari's approach to the Qur'anic exegesis 
and i'jdz. According to al-'Alawi, the Arabic literary sciences are four: the 
science of language which deals with the significance of separate words; 
the science of grammar which deals with words in composition and predication ; 
the science of syntax which deals with the morphology of single words and 
their conformity to regular patterns in the Arabic language; and, lastly, the 
combination of the two branches of Fasdhah and Baldghah which are called 
ma'ani and baydn respectively, and which are the highest of the literary 
sciences. After a long introduction, the book proceeds to deal theoretically 
with the cardinal questions in the rhetorical sciences: such as truth and 
metaphor, kinds of truth, kinds of significance, divisions of metaphor, 
linguistic sounds, single words and compound words and their characteristics, 
and requirements and examples of excellence in the various literary artifices. 

But here we seem to have reached a parting of the ways between rhetoric 
and criticism. The separation is supposed to have been started by abu Ya'qub 
al-Sakkaki al-Khwarizmi (d. 626/1228), the author of Miftah al-'Ulum. He is 
credited with the delineation of the boundaries of literary sciences in the 
manner referred to above which al-'Alawi must have followed in al-Tiraz. 
In the third division of these sciences, al-Sakkaki puts 'Urn al-ma'dni and 
'ilm al-baydn conjointly, the first dealing with the characteristics of speech 
composition by virtue of which they conform to the requirements of the 
occasion, and the second with the different ways of expressing the meaning 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

to complete the desired conformity. By this division al-Sakkaki seems to 
have carried to a logical conclusion the distinction which 'Abd al-Qahir 
indicated between questions of speech structure and composition and those 
of signification and effectiveness. To this dual division, al-Sakkaki appended 
a small section on the special aids to speech beautification, which later 
became the domain of a third separate science, namely, badi'. This process 
of narrowing the critical field to Balaghah and of demarcating its sciences 
was completed and standardized a century later by al-Khatib al-Qazwini 
(d. 739/1338) who condensed al-Sakkaki's Miftdk into a text-book called 
Main al-Talkhis. 


Ma'mar ibn al-Muthanna abu 'Ubaidah, Majaz Gltarib al-Qur'dn, Cairo ; al -Hasan 
ibn Bishr al-Amidi, al-Muwdzanah baina Abi Tammam w-al-Buhturi, Cairo; abu 
Hilal ai-'Askari, al-Sind'atain, Istanbul; abu Bakr al-Baqillani, Fjaz al-Qur'an, 
Cairo; abu al-Faraj 'AH ibn al-Husain al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghdni, Cairo; abu 
'Uthman 'Amr ibn Bahr al-Jahiz, al-Baydn w-al-Tabyin, Cairo; 'Abd al-Qahir al- 
Jurjani, Asrar al-Balaghah, Cairo ; Dald'il al-Pjaz, Cairo ; Ahmad Mustafa al-Maraghi, 
Tarihh 'Uliim cd-Baldgh(th, Cairo; al-Marsafi, al-Wasilah al-Adabiyyah, Cairo; 
al-Khatib al-Qazwini, TalhhU al-Miftdh, Calcutta, Cairo; abu Ya'qub al-Sakkaki, 
Miftah al-'Ulum, Cairo; Sa'd al-DIn al-Taftazani, al-Sharh al-Kabir, Constantinople ; 
al-Sharh al-Saghir, Cairo, Calcutta; Garcin de Tassy, "La Rhetorique des Nations 
Musulmanes," article in J. Asiatique, summarized from Hadd'iq al-Balaghah by 
Amir Shams al-Din Faqir al-Dihlawi; al-Qadi abu al-Hasan 'Ali ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz 
al- Jurjani, al-Wasdtah bain al-Mutanabbi wa Khusumuh, Cairo; T. A. Ibrahim, 
Tarikh al-Naqd al-Adabi 'ind al-'Arab, Cairo; Dia' al-Din ibn al-Athir, al-Mathal 
al-Sd'ir, Cairo; 'Abd Allah ibn al-Mu'tazz, Kitab al-Badi', London, Cairo; abu 
Muhammad 'Abd Allah ibn Muslim ibn Qutaibah, Mushkil al-Qur'an, Cairo; al- 
Hasan ibn Rashiq, al-'Umdah, Cairo; abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Sallam, 
Tabaqat Fuhul al-Shu'ard'. Cairo; ibn Sinan al-Khafaji, Sirr al-Fasdhah, Cairo; 
Muhammad Khalafallah, Min al-Wijha al-Nafslyyah, Cairo; "Badi"' (article 
in Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed.); "Qur'anic Studies as an Important Factor in 
the Development of Arabic Literary Criticism" (article in Alexandria University 
Faculty of Arts Bulletin, 1952); '"Abd al-Qahir's Theory in His Secrets of Elo- 
quence" (article in Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 1955, U.S.A.); M. Mandur, 
al-Naqd al-Mankaji Hnd al-'Arab, Cairo ; Sayyed Nauful, al-Balaghah al-'Arabiyyah 
fi Daur Nashatih, Cairo; Qudamah ibn Ja'far, Naqd al-8hi'r, Cairo; Naqd al- 
Natkr, Cairo; I. A. Richards, The Philosophy of Rhetoric, London; J. Barthelemy 
Saint-Hilaire, Rhetorique d'Aristote, Paris; George Saintsbury, A History of Criticism 
and Literary Taste in Europe, London; Gustave von Grunebaum, Arabic Literary 
Criticism in 10th Century A.D., London; M. Zaghlul Sallam, Athar al-Qur'an fi 
Tatawwur al-Naqd al- l Arabi, Cairo; Did' al-Din Ibn al-Athir wa Juhud fi al-Naqd, 

i Literature 
Chapter LIII 



The earliest remnant of the Aryan languages of Iran which antiquity has 
bequeathed to us is the language of the Avesta, the sacred book of the Zoro- 
astrian religion. 

For about nine hundred years the people of Iran had no script in which 
they could write the Avesta. So they continued to learn it by heart and thus 
communicate it from generation to generation right from the seventh century 
B.C. to the third century A.D. 

A special script was at last invented for this book in the third century 
A.D. The Avesta written in this particular script has been known as the 
Zend Avesta. At times it has been just mentioned as the Zend. The French 
scholar Anquetil du Perron who was the first to have studied it in India 
at the end of the twelfth/eighteenth century, introduced it to the West. For 
a considerable time it continued to be known as the Zend language in Europe. 
At present, however, the more accurate term of "Avestic language" is in 
vogue. The script in which the Avesta was recorded should be known as the 
"Zend script." 

Much has been speculated on the origin and times of Zoroaster, and different 
theories have been advanced in this respect from the earliest times. What 
appears to be most authentic at present, however, is that Zoroaster preached 
his religion between 660 and 583 B.C. in the north-eastern zone of the Iranian 
plateau in Central Asia. It is plausible that he sprang from the Median stock, 
lived in the north-west of the present-day Iran, and from there he travelled 
east to Central Asia. Of the extant languages and dialects of the Iranian 
plateau Pashto or Pakhto has the closest affinity with the Avestic language. 
This lends support to the view that the Avestic language was spoken in the 
north-eastern regions of the Iranian plateau in the seventh century B.C. 
The Avesta is a massive work, a major portion of which has been destroyed 
and forgotten owing to the vicissitudes of time and the domination of Iran 
by foreign nations. What remains today of this book was compiled in the 
early days of the Christian era. It comprises fifteen out of the twenty-one 
original parts and if the extinct parts were proportionate in volume to those 
present about one-fourth of the book may be said to have perished. 

From the philological point of view, the extant parts of the Avesta were 
not written in one period of history. On the contrary, its composition may 
be divided into three sections. The Gathas, which are composed in poetry, 
doubtlessly constitute the earliest part of the book. The Avesta is a collection 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

of the Canon Laws and decrees of the Zoroastrian faith which were formulated 
in diiferent ages. The last of these is contemporaneous with the rise of the 
Acbaemenian power in the sixth century B.C. Possibly when Old Persian, 
i.e., the language of the coins and inscriptions of the Achaemenians, was 
current in the western and southern regions of the country, namely, Media 
and Parsa, Avestic happened to be the language of the eastern or at any rate 
of the north-eastern provinces of Iran. 

Philologically speaking, the Avestic language runs parallel to and is con- 
temporaneous with Sanskrit and, apparently, the origin of both these languages 
can be traced back to yet another ancient language which was perhaps the 
original language of the Indo-Iranian Aryan stock. 

The language of the coins and inscriptions of the Achaemenians, ever since 
they came to power in the middle of the sixth century B.C., is distinctly 
Aryan in character and is known as Old Persian. This language is also con- 
temporaneous with Avestic, and' the growth and development of the two 
dates back to the same age. There are reasons to believe that when Avestic 
was passing through the early stages of development in the eastern provinces 
of the Iranian plateau the Old Persian language was also making headway 
in the west and south-west of Iran. 

With the establishment of the Achaemenian Empire the people of Iran 
suddenly found themselves to be the neighbours of various Semitic 
nations of western Asia including the regions of western Iran. The Semitic 
languages made an inroad into the country and their influence was so strong 
that the Aramaic language and script were officially adopted by the Iranians. 
The Achaemenian kings were men of liberal views and they granted full 
freedom of bebef to their subject races as well as liberty to develop their 
own languages. That is why the cuneiform Achaemenian inscriptions are 
recorded not only in Old Persian but also a parallel translation of the same 
runs in the Syriac, Elamite, Nabataean, and Aramaic languages. 

The establishment of the Achaemenian Empire saw the people of western 
Iran divided into two main groups, namely, the Medes and the Persians 
("Parsis"). It appears certain that either they spoke the same tongue, i.e., 
Old Persian, or their languages had very close kinship with each other. We 
find no traces of the Median language in the Achaemenian inscriptions. 
Apparently, if the Medes had spoken a different language, the Achaemenian 
emperors who had employed the Syriac, Elamite, and Nabataean languages in 
their inscriptions would certainly not have ignored Median. Moreover, a 
couple of words of this language and the names of the Median chiefs that 
have come down to us suffice to establish the close affinity of Median with 
Old Persian. 

From 330 B.C. when the Macedonians conquered Iran, Greek became the 
official language of the country and continued to enjoy that status for a 
long time. Right down to the Christian era Greek is the only language to be 
seen in the Seleucid and Parthian writings. Needless to say that during this 


Persian Literature 

span of three centuries and a half the Iranian languages continued to flourish. 
Old Persian, however, is an exception, which gradually went out of use. We 
can witness definite marks of decay in the Old Persian writings of the later 
Achaemenian period in contrast with those of the earlier one. 

At the dawn of the Christian era we find two languages in the Iranian 
plateau running parallel to each other. One of these grew and developed in 
the eastern regions. This has always been called "Dari" by the Iranians. 
The other which flourished in the western parts of the country was known 
as "Pahlawi." These two languages have come down to our own times. Many 
dialects of "Dari" still continue to exist in the eastern regions of the Iranian 
plateau as far as the Chinese frontiers ; the most important of these are spoken 
in the Pamir region. 

The Pahlawi language has lived in the form of verse known as "Fahlaviy- 
yat," in the books written in Persian on the art of poetry and in dialects 
spoken in the north, south, and west of the country. 

The above-mentioned two languages have very intimate relationship and 
these have apparently stemmed from the same origin. A number of Aramaic 
words, however, entered Pahlawi and these have been known as "Huzvaresh" 
or "Zuwarishn." These words found their way also into books of lexicography. 
In the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent these have been erroneously given the 
name of the "Zend and Pazand" language. "Dari" was too far away to receive 
the impact of the Aramaic language. On the contrary, it accepted the influence 
of the eastern languages such as Tukhari. Sughdian, and Khwarizmi. 

At first the Aramaic script was adopted for both the languages. Later, 
however, a change took place and certain Aramaic letters were put together 
in Pahlawi to form what later came to be known the Pahlawi script. 

The Orientalists did not fully grasp the significance of these subtle technical 
differences and they have been treating old Pahlawi and Dari as one language. 
Consequently, they have been employing the terms Northern Pahlawi or the 
Parthian Pahlawi for the later language. In recent times, however, some 
of them have defined it as the Parthian language whereas Pahlawi itself has 
been referred to as the Southern or Sassanian Pahlawi. 

The number of the extant pre-Islamic works of these two languages is 
very small. The most important ancient work in Dari consists of the Manichaean 
texts and translation of parts of the Avesta into old Dari known as "Pazand." 
The contemporary Dari has also been employed in some of the inscriptions 
of Sassanian kings. 

Both Dari and Pahlawi possessed literature of their own before the advent 
of Islam. This literature, unfortunately, has not come down to us. 

The history of the earliest Iranian dynasties during the Islamic period 
begins from the year 205/820. The dynasties which sprang up in the eastern 
regions raised the structure of their national politics on the basis of language. 
Since the language of these tracts was "Dari," the literature produced in it 
was bound to outshine Pahlawi literature. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

In 429/1038 the Saljuq Turks poured out of Turkestan to invade Iran. 
They gradually conquered the whole country. Since they hailed from the 
east and their officials also belonged to this region, it was natural that they 
should adopt "Dari Persian" as their Court language, which they carried to 
the farthest corners of Iran. Consequently, in the first quarter of the fifth/ 
eleventh century, Dari had attained the status of the common literary language 
of the whole country. It gained supremacy in other regions also where Pahlawi 
had been the popular spoken language till then. From this date Dari became 
the undisputed literary language of Iran and, like many other dialects pre- 
valent in the country, Pahlawi was reduced to the status of a dialect. The 
last vestiges of Pahlawi in the form of inscriptions and coins in Tabaristan 
in the north of Iran date back to the middle of the fifth/eleventh century. 

The first specimens of Pahlawi literature which belong to the early centuries 
of the Hijrah consist of a number of books of religious nature which the 
Iranian Zoroastrians had written with the specific object of preserving their 
Canon Law. These books were taken to the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent 
when the Zoroastrians migrated there. European scholars have been publishing 
their texts since the last century. Amongst these, certain books are claimed 
to have belonged originally to the pre-Islamic Sassanian era. There is ample 
evidence, however, to prove that these were composed during the Islamic 

What is now known of Pahlawi literature is confined to these very books 
and treatises. They suggest that Pahlawi literature had, at any rate towards 
the end of the Sassanian period, flourished on a vast scale. It is an undeniable 
fact that, while during the four hundred years which immediately preceded 
the Saljuq period, Dari had been recognized as the literary language of the 
country, Pahlawi had flourished in the north, south, and west of the present- 
day Iran. Of this only a specific form of verse known as "Fahlaviyyat" has 
come down to us, the quatrains of Baba. Tahir-i 'Uryan of Hamadan being 
its most remarkable specimen. 


The present-day language of Iran is the latest evolutionary form of "Dari" 
and is known as "Farsi" or the Persian language. The people of Iran them- 
selves, however, have always employed the word "Persian" for whatever lan- 
guages have flourished in the country. In the past the two languages under 
discussion which flourished simultaneously have been known as the "Dari 
Persian" and the "Pahlawi Persian." 

The Persian language of today, namely, Dari, originated, as mentioned 
above, during the Muslim period in the east of Iran. The important centres 
of this language were the cities of Transoxiana and Khurasan, to wit, Samar- 
qand, Bukhara, Balkh, Merv, Herat, Tus, and Nishapur. These centres 

Persian Literature 

extended even to Sistan. This explains why the most eminent poets of this 
language down to the Saljuq period hailed from these particular cities. Gradually, 
Dari expanded from Khurasan and Transoxiana to other parts of Iran, so that 
by the Ghaznawid period it had extended to Gurgan, Damghan, and Rayy, 
and by the Saljuq era it had travelled as far away as Adharbaijan, Isbahan, 
and Hamadan. In the province of Fars it did not achieve the status of a 
popular language even in the days of Sa'di and Hafiz. That is why these two 
great poets have revelled in the mastery of this language and in the expres- 
sion of their poetic genius through it. Both of them also composed verse in 
the Pahlawi dialect of Fars, popularly known as the Shirazi language. 

The rules of prosody of Arabic poetry were formulated by Khalil ibn 
Ahmad. These were assiduously observed by the Iranian writers in their Per- 
sian works. Considerable literature was produced on the subject both in Iran 
and in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. Consequently, the same Arabic names 
were retained for Persian metres and rhymes, so much so that even the same 
Arabic word afa'il was employed for purposes of scansion. Metres can be 
classified into three groups, i.e., metres common to both Arabic and Persian, 
metres which were the outcome of the Iranian genius and did not exist earlier, 
and metres which were, on the reverse, typical of and exclusive to Arabic 

Amongst the exclusively Persian metres the most well-known is the one 
employed in the quatrains of Baba Tahir 'Uryan of Hamadan. In the pre- 
Islamic times right up to the Achaemenian period the only verse known was 
the blank verse. Specimens of poetry preserved in the A vesta and Old Persian 
are all composed in blank verse. This type of poetry was also in vogue in 
Pahlawi and Dari, the two languages so closely related to each other. 

The forms of Persian verse have also an independent character and they 
have not always followed the Arabic pattern. The "mathnawi," "tar jV -band," 
"tarkib-band," "musammat," "muthallath,"' "murabba'," "muM&mmas," 
"mustazad," and "ruM'i" are all exclusive to Persian poetry, and they have 
originated solely in the Persian genius. Persian verse has also influenced 
Urdu and Turkish poetry. Similarly, the rhymed verse and many figures of 
speech owe their origin to the creative genius of the Iranian mind. "Muwashshah" 
and "mulamma"' are also Persian in origin. 


The oldest extant specimens of Persian verse date back to the middle of 
the third/ninth century. But these fragments are not sufficient to afford us 
a true picture of the contemporary Persian poetry. What emerges beyond 
doubt, however, is the fact that the Tahirids (205/820-259/872) and later 
the Saffarids (254/867-296/908) played a worthy role in ushering in a new 
era of Persian literature. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Throughout the fourth/tenth century Persian literature continued to flourish 
with remarkable success at the Samanid Court and in the vast regions lying 
between the Chinese frontiers and Gurgan on the Caspian Sea. The Court of 
Nasr bin Ahmad, the Samanid ruler, is especially famous for the large number 
of poets associated with it. Since then the current of Persian literature has 
flowed continuously. 

Modern Persian poetry, in its earliest stages, was characterized by a note 
of realism. The realist school held its own for two hundred years till the end 
of the fifth/eleventh century. The greatest Iranian poets of this school who 
flourished during the fourth/tenth century were Rudaki (329/941), Shahid 
Balkhi (325/937), and Daqiqi (341/952). Early in the sixth/twelfth century 
it gave way to naturalism. In the meanwhile the Iranian Sufis had discovered 
in poetry a most suitable vehicle to disseminate their philosophical message 
to the people. Sufism or Islamic mysticism had become popular in Iraq in 
the middle of the second/eighth century. In its earliest stages it merely laid 
emphasis on piety and godliness and no elaborate system had yet evolved. 
Kufah and Basrah were the earliest centres of this movement. Later, 
however, Baghdad stole the limelight and became associated with great names 
in mysticism. From Baghdad it spread out in two directions, viz., North 
Africa and the "Maghrib" on the one side and north-east of Iran, that is, 
Khurasan and Transoxiana on the other. In the West it came to be linked 
up with Greek thought, especially with Neo-Platonism and with certain 
Israelite doctrines. In the East, especially in Khurasan and Transoxiana, it 
developed kinship with the teachings of Manichaeism and Buddhism which 
had enjoyed wide popularity in these regions for centuries. From here it 
travelled to India and developed in what may be called the Indo-Iranian 
school of mysticism. This latter school gained immense popularity and through 
Iran it spread to Western Asia and even to North Africa. It still continues to 
exist in the entire Islamic world from the borders of China to Morocco. The 
great mystics of Iran chose Persian for imparting their noble thoughts 
to all classes of people. That is why most of the books of the Indo-Iranian 
school of mysticism were written in Persian prose or verse and the language 
of mysticism in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent has always been Persian. 
Symbolism inevitably enjoys profound importance in the mystic cult. For 
fear of opposition at the hands of the devout the mystic poets were constrained 
to express their views and beliefs in the language of symbols. They were, thus, 
destined to contribute to ths special school of symbolism in Persian poetry. 
This tradition still lives in mystic verse, no matter Persian, Urdu, or Turkish. 
The earliest amongst the great Sufis to compose verse in this fashion 
is the celebrated poet abu Sa'id abu al-Khair (357/967-440/1049). Sana'i 
(437/1046-525/1131), Farid al-Dln 'Attar (627/1229), and Maulana Jalal al- 
Din Rumi, (604/1208-672/1273) may be considered the greatest of the 
symbolists among the poets of Iran. Hadiqat al-Haqtqah of Sana'i, Mantiq 
al-Tair of 'Attar and the Mathnawi of Rumi may be regarded as the most 

Persian Literature 

important books of mysticism ever written in Persian. On account of this 
great tradition Persian poetry produced during the whole of this period in 
Iran and the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent is steeped in mysticism. The recital 
of this kind of verse in the assemblies of prayer and devotion among 
different sects of Sufis, at times to the tune of music and occasionally to 
the accompaniment of dance, has been regarded as one of the most important 
observances of the mystical creed. Even men who did not belong to any 
school of mysticism had to compose, whether they liked it or not, their 
poetical works, especially their "ghazals," in a mystical strain. 

Mystic poetry of Iran and the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent forms a subject 
that requires a very elaborate discussion. In fact, it is one of the most pro- 
found literary and philosophical themes of all times. The Iranian mystics, 
apart from expounding the fundamental doctrines and essential principles 
which have deep academic and philosophical significance and are the especial 
concern of those wholly steeped in mysticism, have also instructed the common 
folk on what is popularly termed as generosity and manliness (futuw- 
wat). This teaching mainly consisted of certain moral precepts and aimed 
at inculcating amongst the common mass of people the feeling of manliness, 
courage, forgiveness, and generosity, and might be compared with the institu- 
tion of knighthood or chivalry prevalent in Europe in the Middle Ages. Many 
books were produced on this subject in Arabic and Persian and these have 
been known as books of generosity and manliness (Futuiowat Ndmeh). This 
particular institution travelled from Iran to all the Islamic countries as far 
away as North Africa and the "Maghrib" and it still lives in many parts of 
these lands. 

It may be pointed out that mystical verse in the Persian language has 
provided the civilized humanity with the most cosmopolitan type of poetry, 
and this branch of Persian literature excels all other kinds of poetry both 
in sweep and charm. 

In pre-Islamic Iran epic poetry and national sagas had always enjoyed 
wide popularity. In the Islamic period this tradition was not only maintained 
but it also received further impetus. Initiated by a few earlier poets it found 
its culmination in Firdausl's (411/1020) great classic Shah Ndmeh, which 
remains to be one of the most outstanding epic poems of all times. He com- 
pleted its first narrative in 384/994, and the second in 400/1010. In this field, 
as in many others, Persian literature is immensely rich. A number of epic poems 
were composed in successive ages in Iran and in the Indo-Pakistan sub- 
continent, and this tradition was maintained till a century and a half ago. 
Amongst the most important of these are, chronologically speaking, Garshdsp 
Ndmek of Asadi (465/1073) which was completed in 458/1066, Wls-o Ramin 
of Fakhr al-Dln Asad of Gurgan (middle of the fifth century A. H.) } and the 
quintet (khamseh) of Nizami of Ganjeh who remained devoted to its com- 
position from 572/1176 to 599/1202. Nizami's style in epic poetry won especial 
favour both at home and in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent and a number 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

of poets wrote under his unique influence, amongst the most notable of 
them being Amir Khusrau of Delhi (651/1253-725/1325), Khwaju-i Kirmani 
(689/1290-763/1362), and Jami (817/1414-898/1493). This typical epic style 
has left a deep impress on the Turkish language, and many Turkish poets 
have imitated it, some of them merely translating the same contents into their 
own language. Amongst these may be counted the epic poems of Mir 'Ali 
Sher Nawa'i (844/1440-960/1500) composed in the Chaghata'i, i.e., the eastern 
dialect of Turkish, and the epics of Fuzuli of Baghdad (970/1562) in the 
Azari, i.e., the western dialect of the Turkish language. 

Amongst the other chief characteristics of Persian poetry are the composition 
of philosophical verse and the introduction of philosophical generalities in 
poetry composed in simple language. We have it on the authority of the oldest 
specimens of Persian poetry that poetry and philosophy had forged a close 
link together ever since Persian poetry originated in Khurasan and Trans- 
oxiana. The most important book on practical philosophy to have gained 
immense popularity amongst Muslims in general and the Iranians in particular 
in the early Islamic period was Kalileh wa Dimneh which was at first 
translated from the original Sanskrit work Panchatantra into Pahlawi and 
presumably brought to Iran in the sixth century A.D. in the reign 
of Khusrau Anushirwan (Nushirwan the Just). It was translated from Pah- 
lawi into Syriac about the same time. In the early Islamic period the famous 
Iranian scholar ibn al-Muqaflfa' rendered it from Pahlawi into Arabic. It was 
later versified by Rudaki, the greatest poet of the Samanid period and one 
of the great names in Persian poetry in its whole history of the last twelve 
hundred years. Only a few couplets of this long poem have survived. 

Another book which dealt with practical philosophy like Kallleh wa Dimneh 
was the famous work Sindbad Nameh. This was also rendered into verse 
by Rudaki. That is why his name has been prefixed with Hakim or philo- 
sopher since old. This also suggests that there was a considerable element 
of philosophy in his poetical works. Another great contemporary of Rudaki, 
namely, Shahid Balkhi, was known as one of the famous philosophers of his 
time. He had also entered upon a controversy with yet another famous 
physician-philosopher Muhammad bin Zakariya Razi and composed some 
treatises in refutation of his views. Afterwards many Iranian poets expounded 
valuable philosophical themes in their works and were known as philosophers. 
Kisa'i of Merv was one of them. Firdausi and 'Unsuri also enjoyed the title 
of Hakim or philosopher for having introduced philosophical themes in their 
works. The great poet Nasir Khusrau (394/1004-481/1088) expounded philo- 
sophical thought in all his poetical works in addition to a few books of philo- 
sophy that he wrote in Persian prose from the Isma'ilite point of view. The 
Isma'ilites of Iran always attached great importance to the Persian language in 
disseminating and inculcating amongst others the philosophy of their own 
sect. That is why they were even known as the "educationists" or "Ta'limites." 
The poets of this sect always introduced an element of philosophy in their 


Persian Literature 

works. Amongst the eminent Iranian philosophers and thinkers, Persian verse 
has been ascribed to abu Nasr Farabi (d. 339/950), ibn Sina (d. 428/1037), 
Khwajah Nasir al-Bin Tusi (597/1201-672/1274), Imam Fakhr al-Din Razi 
(554/1159-606/1209), Afdal al-Din Kashani (d. 615/1218), Shihab al-Din 
Suhrawardi Maqtiil (d. 587/1191), Jalal al-Din Dawwani (830/908-1426/1502- 
1503), Mir Sayyid Sharif Gurgani (740/816-1339/1413), Mir Muhammad Baqir 
Damad (d. 1041/1631), Sadr al-Din Shjrazi,i.e.,MuUaSadra(d. 1050/1640-1641), 
and Haji Mulla Hadi Sabziwari (1212/1295-1797/1878). One can say that 
there was hardly any philosopher in Iran who did not express his beliefs in 
poetry. Some of them like Afdal al-Din Kashani composed a considerable 
amount of verse. Philosophical thought also found expression in the quatrains 
of the famous scholar and philosopher 'Umar Khayyam (d. 517/1123-1124). The 
collection of these quatrains forms today one of the most famous books in 
the world, and has been translated into almost all the civilized languages 
including many dialects of Pakistan and India. One of the most important 
features with which we are confronted in Persian literature, irrespective of 
prose or poetry, is the effort on the part of the Iranian philosophers to effect 
a close harmony between Greek thought, i.e., the philosophy of Socrates, 
Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, the Stoics, Zeno, and scepticism as well as a part 
of the philosophical teachings imparted in Alexandria and Edessa, and the 
fundamentals of Islam. Some of them harmonized mysticism with philosophy 
and divine Law, and in this field Persian is decidedly the richest language 
in the world. 

In the eighth/fourteenth century Hafiz, the great immortal poet of Iran, while 
following the naturalist school which had reached its highest point of glory 
in Rumi's poetry (606/1200-691/1292) laid the foundation of impressionism 
in Persian poetry. This school did not find its roots in Iran for about a hun- 
dred years and it was only at the end of the ninth/fifteenth century that 
a few great Persian poets lent it a new charm and colour. This was the time when 
the Mughul dynasty had reached the height of its power and splendour in 
the Indo- Pakistan sub-continent. Persian enjoyed the status of official language 
of the Mughul Court. All notable men of the sub-continent had fully imbibed 
Persian culture in all walks of life. Every year a large number of Iranian 
intellectuals and artists would travel to the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent 
either to settle down there permanently or to make it a temporary home. 
These scholars introduced this school of poetry in India where it won immense 
popularity. It found its highest expression at the Courts of Jalal al-Din Akbar 
(r. 963/1556-1014/1605) and his successors, namely, Jahangir (r. 1014/1605- 
1037/1628), Shahjahan (r. 1037/1628-1068/1658), and Aurangzib (r. 1069/1658- 
1118/1707). Under the patronage of these Courts, rich and exquisite works 
of poetry were produced. There is a large number of poets who attained 
eminence in this style, popularly known in Iran as the Indian School of poetry. 
Among them 'Urfi (963/1556-999/1591), Naziri (1023/1614), Zuhuri (1024/ 
1615), Talib Amuli (1036/1627), Qudsi (1056/1646), Kalim (1061/1651), and 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Sa'ib (1012/1603-1083/1672) had been attracted from Iran and they provided 
both stimulus and schooling to numerous well-known poets of the local 
origin. The most brilliant amongst this galaxy of poets were Faidi (953/1546- 
1004/1596), abu al-Barakat Munir (1055/1645-1099/1688), Ghani (1072/1661), 
Nasir 'Ali (1108/1696), Ghammat (1107/1695), Ni'mat Khan 'Ali (1121/1709), 
Bidil (1134/1722), Nur al-'Ain Waqif (1190/1776), Siraj al-Din 'Ali Khan 
Arzu (1169/1756), Ghalib (1213/1798-1285/1868), 'Ubaidi Suhrawardi (1306/ 
1889), Shibli Nu'mani (1274/1857-1332/1914), Girami (1345/1926), and many 
others. The literary tradition bequeathed by them still lives in the Indo- 
Pakistan sub-continent. 

The last great poet of the Persian language in the Indo-Pakistan sub- 
continent was Muhammad Iqbal (1289/1873-1357/1938) who infused a new 
life in Persian poetry, rejected the impressionist school that had preceded 
him, and revived the symbolist traditions with magnificent results. 

In Iran a new movement in poetry made itself manifest at the end of the 
twelfth/eighteenth century which promised pastures anew. As a consequence, 
most of the poets returned to naturalism. The tendency to revitalize and 
revivify Persian verse and to bring it closer to Western poetry, is distinctly 
visible in Iran. There are even attempts at going to such extremes as sur- 
realism. The younger Iranian poet is, however, passing through a period of 
transition and has yet to determine his final attitude. Nevertheless, one comes 
across exquisite pieces of poetry produced by some of the poets and 
poetesses of the younger generation. This augurs well for a great future. It 
is not unlikely that a new school of poetry will emerge before long. 

One who wishes to study the evolution of Persian poetry and its different 
schools and styles in minute detail will perforce have to make a deep study 
of the works of quite a few hundred poets of Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, 
Pakistan, India, and Turkey— men who selected this language as their medium 
of expression and stuck to the Iranian tradition of poetry. 

It may be observed that all the important poets of Persian language, whether 
they were of the Iranian or Indo-Pakistani origin, or whether they hailed 
from certain Central Asian and Caucasian regions formerly treated as parts 
of Iran, were Muslims. Only with regard to Daqiqi, the celebrated poet of 
the Samanid period, it has been contested by a few scholars that he belonged 
to the Zoroastrian faith. But even this cannot be taken for granted. In the ' 
eighth/fourteenth century, however, a Zoroastrian poet Bahrain bin Puzhdu 
rendered two books of the Zoroastrian religion into verse, namely Zartusht 
Nameh and Arda Viraf Nameh. 


Modern Persian is today one of the richest 
retains a link, close or distant, with all the Aryan 

in the world. It 
in the East as 

Persian Literature 

well as those in the West. It, thus, bears a close resemblance to all these 
languages in respect of grammar, syntax, and composition. However, on 
account of the deep attachment of the Iranian scholars to Islamic learning 
and sciences on the one hand and to Arabic language on the other, Persian 
became progressively a richer and vaster language. 

In the middle of the first/seventh century when the people of Iran embraced 
Islam, the Arabic language gained a complete hold on that country. It came 
to be looked upon not only as the language of religion but also one of arts 
and letters. During the early period of the 'Abbasid Caliphate when a strong 
movement was launched to produce scientific and literary works in Arabic, 
the Iranians played a very important role in it. They were also conspicuous 
in rendering translations of Pahlawi, Syriac, and at times even Greek works. 
They also composed a large number of original works in Arabic. After 
this Arabic became so widely popular and gained such an immense hold 
on Iran that the most important books in the field of Arabic grammar and 
lexicography were written by the Iranians. Many of the Persian poets com- 
posed Arabic verse and some of their works have been acknowledged amongst 
the finest and most exquisite specimens of Arabic poetry. The Iranian philo- 
sophers adoptedArabic as the medium of their expressionfrom the very beginning. 
Only a few of them ever attempted to compose their philosophical works in 
Persian. Books produced in Iran on the subjects of astronomy, mathematics, 
and medicine were mostly written in Arabic. Some of the Iranian historians 
also selected Arabic as theirvehicle of expression. Most of the religious literature, 
including jurisprudence (Fiqh), Hadlth, and commentary on the Holy Qur'an, 
was also produced in Arabic. From the earliest Islamic period the Persian 
language had imported Arabic elements. Especially in the domain of technical 
terms Persian was completely overwhelmed by Arabic. Incidentally, the 
Iranians have given special meanings to many Arabic words which have also 
passed into Urdu in their changed Persianized sense. The overwhelming 
influence of Arabic on the Persian language is traceable in different epochs 
of Iranian history. 

However, we find that some of the great scholars of Iran like ibn Slna, 
Nasir Khusrau, Afdal al-Din Kashani, and abu Raihan al-Biruni have at times 
shown in their Persian works a tendency to coin fresh Persian words instead 
of employing the current technical and scientific Arabic terms. Certain other 
writers have also shown a tendency to employ new compound epithets of 
purely Persian origin in their works. The outstanding specimens of this trend 
in the Indo-Pakistani Persian literature are visible in A'in-i Akbari of abu 

The excessive use of Arabic words in Persian prose started in the fifth/ 
eleventh century. Kalileh wa Dimneh which was rendered into Persian by 
Nasr Allah b. 'Abd al-Hamid from the Arabic version of ibn al-Muqaffa' may be 
regarded as the first specimen of this type of writing. Amongst other books 
written in this style may be enumerated Marzban Nameh of Sa'd al-Din of 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Varavin, Tarikh-i Wassaf, Tdrlkh-i Mu'jam, and Durrah-i Nadirah, the last 
being the work of Mirza Mahdi Khan, the historian of the Court of Nadir 
Sh»h. But the number of such books is very small. In fact, ninety-nine Persian 
books out of one hundred have been written in simple and direct style and they 
have always reflected the contemporary idiom, except where a writer has 
deliberately digressed from the natural style to employ Arabic phrases, a 
tendency which had been regarded as a kind of literary treat. 

As a result of the systematic development of Persian poetry and use of 
symbolism, Persian prose evolved a new style in which the writer would 
lay the highest emphasis on allusions, metaphors, and rhetorical devices. We 
notice the same trend in the recent prose styles of some European languages. 
This exceedingly sophisticated style of Persian prose in which the content 
was obscured by vague rhetoric and long and repetitious sentences reached 
its zenith in the ninth/fifteenth and tenth/sixteenth centuries. It also 
penetrated into the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent where we find in Seh Nathr-i 
Zuhuri and Rasa'il-i Tughra-i Mashhadi its most outstanding specimens. 

This style won remarkable popularity in the field of Court documents, 
royal commands and decrees, and official correspondence. The tradition 
passed on to the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent and found its finest expression 
in Manshaat-i Abu al-Fadl Alldmi. It also found its way to Turkey and 
during this period the official correspondence of the Ottoman Caliphs was 
wholly conducted in the same style as that in Persian. This "Court style" 
originated in Iran in the sixth/twelfth century, enjoyed a large, uninterrupted 
era of popularity and found its best specimen in Manshaat-i Mirza Tdhir 
Wahid composed in the eleventh/seventeenth century. It was, however, dealt 
a fatal blow by Mirza abu al-Qasim Qa'im Maqam Farahani {1193/1779- 
1251/1835) whose prose was distinguished for the simplicity and purity of 
its style. 

The contemporary Persian prose has a highly simple, facile, and elegant 
expression. It has freed itself from the conventional ornate and abstruse 
style. Today it has drawn itself far closer to the idiomatic and colloquial 
Persian expression than ever before. 

During the long history of Persian prose a very large number of books 
have been written in all branches of knowledge such as jurisprudence, com- 
mentary on the Holy Qur'an, scholastic theology, mysticism, philosophy, 
medicine, mathematics, astronomy, arts, ethics, tales and fables, and even 
such subjects as handicrafts. However, a majority of prose works in Persian 
have always been confined to history and practical ethics. That also explains 
why all books on the history of the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent during the 
Islamic period have been produced in Persian. On this very account some know- 
ledge of Persian may be regarded as an essential prerequisite for learning 
the history of some of the Asian countries. In fact, Persian literature may 
be divided into poetry and history as its two main component parts. 

Persian Literature 


For a long time the Iranians paid no heed to Persian grammar since they 
were no strangers to the rules of their mother tongue. The only expositions 
of Persian grammar in the past consisted of brief notices which some of the 
lexicographers would include in the prefaces to their works. The compilation 
of grammatical works started in right earnest when during the Mughul rule 
in India Persian became the literary as well as the Court language of the 
Muslims of the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. That is why books on this 
subject were for a considerable time confined mostly to the Indo-Pakistan 
sub-continent alone. 

In the field of Persian lexicography as in grammar, not much interest was 
shown in the past. The works produced contained a rather limited number 
of uncommon words employed in poetry. When a proof was required regarding 
the authenticity of a certain word, it was furnished from the couplets in which 
it had been used. 

It is quite apparent that at first the necessity for such dictionaries arose 
in the western parts of Iran where Dari was not the language of the people. 
The first dictionary to have ever been produced in Persian was compiled 
by Qatran Urumawi, the famous poet who lived in Tabriz and died in 465/ 
1075. This book is now extinct. After him Asadi of Tiis, who also lived in 
Adharbaijan and died in the same year as Qatran, completed his famous 
dictionary which is the oldest extant work on the subject. 

As mentioned earlier, the Saljuqs had carried their official language, Dari, 
right into Adharbaijan in the wake of their conquests. Since the people of 
this province spoke Pahlawi, they found it difficult to understand meanings 
of certain words which were familiar to Dari but did not exist in Pahlawi. 
Hence the urge to compile these works in Adharbaijan. 

The most important role in the compilation of dictionaries was undoubtedly 
played by lexicographers of the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. During the 
Mughul period the Court language of the Empire was Persian. People, for 
whom it was not the mother tongue, stood in need of books for guidance and 
help. In the eleventh/seventeenth century special attention was paid to 
this work, though dictionaries had been in the process of compilation 
since a hundred years earlier. 

For a long time the works of the Indo-Pakistani lexicographers or those 
of the Iranian scholars who had migrated to the sub-continent continued to 
be the most authentic source of reference even for the Iranians themselves. 
The most outstanding of these books are Farhang-i Jahangiri of Jamal al-Dln 
Inju, Farhang-i RaskUi of 'Abd al-Rashid of Thatta, Burhdn-i Qdti' of Muham- 
mad Husain Tabrizi, Asif al-Lughat of 'Aziz Jang Bahadur, BaMr-i 'Ajam 
of Tek Chand Bahar, Ghiragh-i Hiddyat of Siraj al-Dln 'Ali Khan Arzu, 
Ohiydth al-Lughat of Muhammad Ghiyath al-Din, Farhang-i Anand Raj of 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Muhammad Padshah Shad, and Mustalihdt al-8ku'ara' compiled by Varasteh. 
The number of lexicographical works compiled in the Indo-Pakistan sub- 
continent exceeds one hundred of which the oldest, viz., Adah al-Fudala' of 
Qadi Khan Badr Muhammad of Delhi, was completed in 822/1419. In other 
words, the period during which these works were diligently and assiduously 
produced extends to about five hundred years. 

The necessity of compiling such dictionaries was also felt in Turkey where 
Persian enjoyed the status of a literary language at the Turkish Court of the 
Ottoman Caliphs and many a Turkish scholar produced literary works and 
composed poetry in Persian, so much so that even some of the Turkish 
emperors composed poetry in this language. As a consequence, a few dictionaries, 
to wit, Lughat-i Ilalimi, Lughat-i Sha'uri, Dasinah-i Kablr, and Lughat-i Shflh- 
nameh of 'Abd al-Qadir Baghdadi, were edited in Turkey. But as against the 
dictionaries produced in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent in which the meanings 
of words were also explained in Persian, in Turkey the meanings and explana- 
tions were given in Turkish. The Iranians themselves, therefore, have not 
been able to utilize these works. 

To no other area of the world does the Persian language and literature 
owe so profusely as to the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. Not only have the 
scholars there written hundreds of very useful books on subjects as varied 
and diverse as history, lexicography, grammar, mysticism, biographies of 
poets, and commentaries on certain Persian texts, and have preserved and 
jealously guarded many books lost to posterity in other countries and even 
in Iran, but they have also special interest in the publication of literary works 
in the Persian language. There is hardly any big city in the Indo-Pakistan 
sub-continent where a number of Persian books have not been published. 
The number of such published works stands at two thousand. 


The history of modern European powers in the East dates back to the 
Renaissance period. Iran was one of the earliest countries to have come into 
contact with the West. At first it was the Christian missionaries who set foot 
on Muslim lands with a view to propagating their religion. They were, thus, 
introduced to the rich treasure of advanced sciences that had accumulated 
there through centuries but were unknown to the West. They learnt the 
Arabic and the Persian languages ir order to acquaint themselves with the 
rich philosophical thought and the subtle beauties and artistries of Persian 
literature. At first works of Persian classics were rendered into Latin and soon 
after these were published in some other prominent European languages such 
as French, English, German, and Italian. 

The earliest Persian work to have been translated into a European language 
was Gulistan of Sa'di. Gradually, the works of Firdausi, Hafiz, 'Umar Khayyam, 

Nizami, Jami, Jala.1 al-Din Rumi, Farid al-Din 'Attar, Nasir Khusrau, 
and others were also translated. These eminent stars on the firmament of 
Persian literature are now regarded in all Western countries as amongst the 
great immortals of world literature. It was the dissemination of their thought 
which provided stimulus to numerous European poets and writers of the 
thirteenth/nineteenth century to take inspiration from Persian writers. This 
influence was at times fully revealed in their works and at others was reflected 
in their thought. One of the earliest amongst them was Dante, the Italian 
poet, who was inspired to write his Divine. Comedy in which he describes 
his spiritual flight into heavens and the next world under the influence of 
Iranian literature. Next it was the great German poet Goethe who was thrilled 
by the sheer beauty of Persian literature through German translations of 
Persian poetry, and who had even pursued for some time the study of Persian 
language in order to have a fuller appreciation of its literature. He even dedicat- 
ed to it one of his famous works W est-ostlicher Divan, and gave to a section 
of this book the title of "Kitab-i Hafiz." The well-known English poet Edward 
Fitzgerald also published a small collection known as Rvba'iyat-i 'Umar 
Khayyam which he claimed to have translated from the Persian collection 
of Khayyam's quatrains. Actually, however, not all these quatrains are by 
Khayyam himself; some of these are the work of other Persian poets. As 
such, this collection reflects the thought of a number of Iranian philosophers. 
Many of the European poets and writers who acquainted themselves with 
the thought of Persian poets through translations in Western languages have 
produced delightful works associated with Persian literature. Mainly, however, 
they have come under the spell of Khayyam. Sa'di, and Hafiz. 


Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla, Ancient Iranian Literature, Karachi, 1949; AH 
Asghar Hikmet, Glimpses of Persian Literature, Calcutta, 1956; S. M. Ishaque, 
Modern Persian Poetry, Calcutta, 1943; Four Eminent Poetesses of Iran, Calcutta, 
1950; R. P. Masani, Court Poets of Iran and India, Bombay, 1938; Muhammad 
Abdul Ghani, A History of Persian Language and Literature at the Mughal Court, 
Allahabad, Part I, Babar, 1929, Part II, Humayun, 1930, Part III, Akbar, 1930; 
G. K. Nariman, Iranian Influence of Muslim Literature, Bombay, 1918; Choeth 
Ram, A Short Survey of the History of Persian Literature, Lahore, 1927; Iqbal 
Husain, The Early Persian Poets of India, Patna, 1937; "Persian Letters," Life 
and Letters, London, Vol. LXIII, No. 148, December, 1949; A. J. Arberry, Persian 
Poems, London, 1954; Reuben Levy, Persian Literature, An Introduction, London, 
1923; A. V. Williams Taekson, Early Persian Poetry, New York, 1920; H. I. 
Sadanangani, Persian Poets of Sind, Karachi, 1956; E. G. Browne, A Literary 
History of Persia, 4 Vols., London, 1906-1924; Umar Muhammad Dawudpota, The 
Influence of Arabic Poetry in the Development of Persian Poetry, Bombay, 1934; 
F. F. Arbuthnot, Persian Portraits, London, 1882; S. A. Storey, Persian Literature, 
London, Section I, 1922, Section II, Fasciculus 3, 1939, Vol. I, Part 2, 1953; 
Munibur Rahman, Post- Revolution Persian Verse, Aligarh, 1955; Ambikaprasad 
Vajpeyi, Persian Influence on Hindi, Calcutta, 1936; Hadi Hasan, Studies in 
Persian Literature, Aligarh, 1924. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 
Chapter LIV 



The earliest surviving written documents of Turkish literature date from 
the first/seventh century. They consist of short inscriptions in the so-called 
"Runic" letters in the Upper Yenisei Valley in Siberia. Lengthier documents 
of the same linguistic type and in the same script survive in the valley of the 
Orkhon in Outer "Mongolia and date from the second/eighth century. These 
consist of inscriptions on two steles in honour of two princes of the Turkish 
dynasty of the Eastern Kok Turk State, and a third erected in honour of 
its old minister. The history of the Eastern Kok Turk State is here related 
in a semi-legendary and artistic way. Other inscriptions in the same script, 
large and small, are known in Mongolia, Siberia, and Western Turkestan. 
Manuscripts too, belonging probably to the third/ninth century, have been 
found. The language of the Turkish runes is characterized by a certain archaism 
in its phonetics, morphology, and vocabulary. 

From the second/eighth century onwards the Uygur Turks became acquaint- 
ed with Manichaeism, Buddhism, and Syrian (especially Nestorian) Christianity 
in Northern China and East Turkestan and developed a high culture within 
the framework of Far Eastern civilization which lasted until the seventh/ 
thirteenth century. The surviving Uygur manuscript and xylographic literature 
is very extensive and proves a high cultural activity in the fields of religion, 
philosophy, and other sciences. The script used for these literary works was 
mainly the Uygur alphabet, derived from the Soghdian script. In addition 
to the Uygur alphabet, however, these Turks used, besides the ancient Turkish 
runes, the Manichaen, Syriac, and Brahmi runes. The Uygur alphabet remained 
in use until the twelfth/eighteenth century among the Turks of China who 
did not adopt Islam. The conversion to Islam (from the fourth/tenth century 
onwards) of the Turks of Central Asia was followed by the adoption of the 
Arabic alphabet. However, the Uygur alphabet remained in use as the Court 
script. It was given a new lease of life in the Muslim territories by the Mongol 
conquest, and was used in the seventh/thirteenth to ninth/fifteenth centuries 
among the Golden Horde and the Timurids for the Kipchak and Chaghata'i 
languages. As late as the early tenth/sixteenth century there were still in the 
Imperial Chancellery in Istanbul scribes skilled in writing the Uygur script. 

The Uygur Turkish or, to use a more suitable term, the old Turkish literary 
language (for the civilization that used it was wider than the geographical 
or historical limits of the Uygur State) shows, broadly speaking, the same 
dialectical peculiarities as the Kot Turkish monuments. The few dialectical 


Turkish Literature 

divergencies are obviously in the main due to the passage of time and to 
influences from the outside. 1 

The conversion to Islam of the Turks of Central Asia began in the fourth/ 
tenth century. Throughout history the Turks proved to be devoted Muslims and 
zealous defenders and promoters of Islam. Founded on the literary Uygur 
of the pre-Islamic period, there developed in the fifth/eleventh century under 
the Karakhanids. converts to Islam, the Muslim Turkish literary language 
of East Turkestan written probably from the first in the Arabic alphabet. 
The best known documents in this language are two didactic poems, the 
Qutddhghn Bilig (The Science of Happiness), composed by Yusuf Khas Hajib, 
and the 'Atabdt al-Haqd'iq (The Threshhold of Facts), composed by Adib 
Ahmad. There is, further, a translation of the Qur'an. Besides these works 
there is another dating from the same century, the Diwan-o Lughat al-Turk 
of Mahmud al-Kashghari composed in Baghdad in Arabic in order to acquaint 
the Arabs with the Turkish world. It is a very valuable source for the investi- 
gation of the various Turkish tribes, dialects, folk literature, customs, culture, 
etc., of this time. 2 

1 General Works on the Development of the Turkish Language and Literature : 
Krymski, Istoriya turciyi i yeya Uteratuy, 2 Vols., Moscow, 1916; M. Fuad 
Kopruliizade, Turk edebiyati tarihi, Istanbul, 1926, 386 pp. + 7 maps (incomplete); 
"Turk edebiyatma umumi bir baki§," Turk dUi ve edebiyati, hakktnda arasttrmalar, 
Istanbul, 1934, pp. 1-25; "Un apercu general sur la Literature turque," Ankara, 
February 26, March 5 and 19, 1942; A. Bombaci, Storia delta letteratura turca, 
Milano, 1956, 526 pp. 

The Pre-Islamic Language and Literature: M. Fuad Kopruliizade, "En eski 
Turk siirleri," Ikdam, March 19, 1916; M. Rasanen, "Ein Uberbfick iiber die 
altesten Denkmaler der turkisehen Sprachen," Studia OrientMia, XIII/1, 1946, 
pp. 1-21; A. S. Levend, Turk dUi ve edebiyatimn ilk mahsvileri, Ankara, 1949, 
31 pp.; A. v. Gabain, Altturkisches SchrifUum, Akademie-Verlag, Berlin, 1950, 
24 pp.; M. N. Ozerdim, M.S. IV-V, "yiizyillarda Cin'in kuzeyinde hanedan kuran 
Tiirklerin siirleri," Ankara Universitesi DU ve Tarih-Cotfrafya Fakultesi dergisi, 
XIII/3, 1955, pp. 51-96. 

2 V. V. Barthold, "The Turks and the Qara-Khanids," Four Studies on the 
History of Central Asia, translated from the Russian by V. and T. Minorsky, I, 
Leiden, 1956, pp. 17-24; O. Pritsak, "Die Karachaniden," Islam, XXXI/1, 1953, 
pp. 17—68; A. A. Valitova, "Yusuf Balasagunskiy i ego 'Kutadgu bilig,'" Kratkie 
Soobsceniya Inst. Vostokovedeniya, IV, 1952, pp. 56-63; A. Bombaci, "Kutadgu 
Bilig hakkinda bazi miilahazalar," F. Kopriilu Arma(fani, Istanbul, 1953, pp. 
65-75; M. Fuad Kopruliizade, "II. asir Turk sairi Edip Ahmet," Turk dili ve 
edebiyati hakkinda ara§ttrmalar, Istanbul, 1934, pp. 68-73; "Divan-i Lugat al- 
Turk," ibid., pp. 33-34; "Le 'Divaru Lugat al-Turk,'" Ankara, January 30, 
February 6, 1936; "Hibet al-Hakayik tetkiklerinin bugiinku hali,"*Wd.,pp. 91-112; 
"Le quatrain dans la poesie classique turque," Ankara, November 27, 1941; 
C. Brockelmann, "Altturkestanische Volksweisheit," Ostasiatische Zeitschrift, VIII, 
1920, pp. 49-73 ; "Mahmud ol-Kasghari iiber die Sprachen und Stamme der Tiirken 
im 11. Jahrhundert," Korbsi Csoma-Archivum, 1/1, 1921, pp. 26—40; "Altturkes- 
tanische Volkspoesie I," Asia Major, Probeband, 1923, pp. 3-24; "Altturkestanis- 
che Volkspoesie II," Asia Major, I, 1925, pp. 22-44; "Volkskundliches aus Ost- 
turkestan," Asia Major. II, 1925, pp. 110-24. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Islam was established during the fourth/tenth century in the Bulghar kingdom 
of Kama also. But data are lacking to enable us to decide if there also 
existed any literature. In any case Bulghar elements are found in the sepulchral 
inscriptions of the eighth/fourteenth century in the Volga region. 3 

The development of literary Turkish in Central Asia went on without inter- 
ruption, but its centres changed from time to time. 

The absence of early manuscripts prevents us from giving a definite name 
to the language of the Hihmats (theological didactic poems) of Ahmad Yasavi, 
the founder of Turkish mysticism, who lived in the sixth/twelfth century in 
West Turkestan. 

In the seventh/thirteenth century the various literary dialects of the Muslim 
Turkish world were not yet clearly differentiated from one another. The 
formation of the Mongol Empire, which embraced almost the whole Arabic 
world of the period, created for a time an atmosphere favourable to the develop- 
ment of a uniform language for a considerable section of the Muslim Turkish 
peoples. At first Turkish literary activity under the Saljuqs in Asia Minor 
was to some degree bound up with that of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. 
The seventh/thirteenth century, however, is an epoch of political agitations 
in Asia Minor and Eastern Europe. It is, therefore, only in the next century 
that literary works are mainly to be found. 4 

Literary activity on the northern shores of the Black Sea, in Khwarizm 
which included the mouth of the Sir Darya, in the capital Saray, and in the 
Crimea attained a considerable development by the beginning of the eighth/ 
fourteenth century but no uniform literary language developed. The 
elements of the literary language of the Karakhanid period were combined 
with those of the local spoken dialects. In Syria, Egypt, and Persia under 
Turkish or Turkicized rulers there grew an interest in Turkish. Thus, we 
find a series of grammar books and lexicons in Arabic from the sixth/thirteenth 
century until the beginning of the tenth/sixteenth century. They all deal 
with the Kipchak but contain elements from other Turkish dialects in varying 

The prose work Qisas al-Anbiya' (Stories of the Prophets), with passages 
in verse written by N. Rabghuzi, finished in 710/1310, although lacking 

3 C. Gerard, Les Bulgares de la Volga et les Slaves du Danube, Paris, 1939; 
J. Sensing, "Die angeblichen bolgarturkischen Lehnworter im Ungarischen," Zeit- 
schrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Oesellschaft, CVIII, 1944, pp. 24-27; M. 
Rasanen, "Der Wolga-bolgarische Einfluss im Westen imLichte derWortgeschichte," 
Finnisch-ugrische Forschungen, XXIX, 1946, pp. 190-201; O. Pritsak, Die bulga- 
rische Furstenliste und die Sprache der Protobulgaren, Wiesbaden, 1955, 101 pp. + 
3 plates. 

4 V. Gordlevskiy, "Hodja Ahmed Yesewi," Festschrift Georg Jacob, Leipzig, 
1932, pp. 56-67; A. K. Borovkov, "Ocerki po istorii uzbekskogo yazyka," Sovetskoe 
Vostokovedenie, V, Moscow-Leningrad, 1948, pp. 229-50; M. Fuad Kopruluzade, 
V Influence du Chamanisme tuco-mongol sur les ordres mystiques musulmans, Istan- 
bul, 1929, 19 pp. 


Turkish Literature 

aesthetic value, is of great literary importance. Another religious work in 
verse is the Mu'in al-Murld of Shaikh Sharif Khwajah (713/1313). The very 
attractive romance in verse, Khusraw wo Shlrin of the poet Qutb (742-743/ 
1341-1342), although based on the corresponding Persian work of Nizami, has 
nevertheless many original passages. Khwarizmi's poem Mahabbatndmah 
(The Book of Love), composed in 754/1353, is another work of high literary 
merit. Seif-i Sarayi's translation of Qulistan (The Rose-Garden) that appeared 
in 782/1380 is another prose and verse book of high literary value. The religious 
work Nahj al-Faradis (Way to the Paradises) of Mahmud b. 'AH (716/1316) 
is, properly speaking, a "Forty -Hadith" book in simple prose with no aesthetic 
aims. Finally may be mentioned the religious prose work Mi'rajnamah (Book 
of the Ascension) composed for didactic purposes. 

Further, there are other works written in Egypt and Syria which are : a 
Siyar book composed in 784/1382; Irshad cd-Muluk w-al-Salatin composed 
by Barka Faqih in 789/1387; Kitab fi al-Fiqh bi al-Lisan al-Turhi, originating 
probably from the ninth/fifteenth century; Kitab fi l Ilm al-Nashshab wa 
Kitab fi Riyadat al-Khail, a book on the art of horsemanship translated from 
Arabic for soldiers in about 808/1405; Kitab al-Da'ioa, another book on the 
art of horsemanship also translated from Arabic in 844/1440. 5 

We may date to the eighth/fourteenth and ninth/fifteenth centuries the 
beginning of the development of the different literary languages in different 
parts of the Muslim Turkish world. 

The Chaghata'i language and literature which developed under the Timurids, 
the descendants of the second son of Chingiz Khan, represent the most 
brilliant phase of the development of Central Asiatic Turkish literature. 
Names are known of a few Turkish poets who lived in the eighth/fourteenth 
century. But the works which have survived belong to the first half of the 
ninth/fifteenth century. Sakkaki was a panegyrist. Another famous poet was 

5 M. Fuad Kopruluzade, "Gazneliler devrinde Turk siiri," Turk dili ve edebiyati 
hakkmda ara§ttrmalar, Istanbul, 1934, pp. 26-32; "II. asirda bir Turk filologu. 
Fahreddin Miibaraksah ve eseri," ibid., pp. 123-54; "Harezmsahlar devrinde bir 
Turk filologu. Muhammed b. Kays ve eseri," ibid., pp. 155-61; "La poesie turque 
sous les Gaznevides," Ankara, November 28, 1935; "Un philologue turc a la cour 
de Harezmsah," ibid., January 13, 1938; "Altin Ordu'ya dair yeni vesikalar," 
BeUeten V, 1941, pp. 397-436; T. Halasi-Kun, "Philologica I," Ankara Vniversitesi 
DU ve Tarih-Co$rafya Fakultesi Dergisi, V/l, 1947, pp. 1-37; "Philologica II," 
ibid., VII/2, 1949, pp. 415-65; A. Zajaczkowski, "Zabytek jezykowy z Zlotej 
Ordy, 'gusrev z Sinn' Qutba," Rozcnik Orientalistyczny, 19, 1954, pp. 45-123; 
"Kutb'un Huarev u Sirin adh eseri hakkmda," VIII, Turk Dil KuruHay%, Ankara, 
1960, pp. 159-64; Manuel arabe de la langue des Turcs et des Kiptchaks (Spoque 
de Vliitat mamelouk), Warshaw, 1938, xxl + 56 + 16; Glosy tureckie w zabytkach, 
I, Katechizacja turecka Jana Herbininsa, Wroslow, 1948, 76 pp. ; M. Th. Houtsma, 
Ein tiirkisch-arabisches Glossar, Leiden, 1894, 114 + 57 pp.; al-Qavxmin al-Kulliyah 
fi Lughat al-Turkiyyah, Istanbul, 1928, 94 pp.; al-Tuhjat al-Dhakiyyah fi 
al-Lughat al-Turkiyyah (tr. B. Atalay), Istanbul, 1945, 296 pp. + 91 pp. in 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Lutfi. To the same period belong the panegyrist Mir Haidar Majdhub 
(Turkish Tilbe), Amiri, Sayyid, Ahmad Mlrza, Gada'i, Yaqini, and 'Ata'i. 

In the second half of the century Chaghata'i literature reached its zenith 
in Mir *Ali Shir Nawa'i. In his Diwan {Book of Poems) as well as in his numerous 
other verse and prose works he does not merely imitate the Persian poets, 
as was the case with his predecessors, but knows how to suit the taste of 
his contemporaries. He has, therefore, enjoyed great popularity right down 
to the present day all over the Turkish world. Of importance is his MuTjakamat 
al-Lnghatain (The Contest of Two Languages) in which he endeavours to 
show that the Turkish language is no less suitable than the Persian for poetical 
works and intellectual purposes. He is also the first composer of Turkish 
collection of the biographies of poets. Nawa'i is considered to be one of the 
greatest personalities and intellectuals in Turkish literature. The prince and 
patron of Nawa'i, Sultan Husain Baiqara, was also a poet. 

The founder of the Timurid Empire in India in the first half of the tenth/ 
sixteenth century, Babur Shah, was also the author of a number of poems, 
but he is most celebrated for his KMiirat-i Baburi (Memoirs of Babur) or 
Baburnamah (Babur Book) very vividly relating his life and expeditions as 
well as describing the life and topography of India. He is considered the second 
great personality of Chaghata'i literature. 

Minor personalities of the classical period are Hamidi, Muhammad Salih, 
Shabani, etc. 

Under the Uzbeks, who drove the Timurids out of Central Asia and Eastern 
Persia in the second half of the tenth/sixteenth century, Turkish poets and 
writers stuck to old Chaghata'i models without producing anything new or 
original. The historian abu al-Ghazi Bahadur Khan in the twelfth/eighteenth 
century probably stands alone in endeavouring to avoid in his work Persian 
and Arabic as well as Chaghata'i Turkish words. 

Of importance is Mirza Mahdi Khan's Sangldkh (Stony Place), a Turkish- 
Persian dictionary composed in 1174/1760 with its extensive preface on classical 
Chaghata'i Turkish grammar containing comparisons with Anatolian Turkish. 
The same Turkish literary language as was written in the land of the 
Uzbeks is written to the present day in Chinese Turkestan. Here also Turkish 
culture has been influenced by Persian. 

In the fourteenth/twentieth century a new Turkish literature based on the 
local dialects has been founded under Russian und Kazan Turkish influences. 
It includes dramatic works among its productions. In accordance with the 
State policy of the new regime, a special alphabet in Cyrillic letters has been 
created for the Uzbek language. 6 

6 A. Z. V. Togan, "AH Sir Nevai," Islam Ansiklopedisi, I, 1941; A. Caferoglu, 
"Qagatay tiirkeesi ve Nevai," Istanbul Vniversitesi Turk Dili ve Edebiyati Dergisi, 
II/3-4, 1948, pp. 141-54; "Modern Azerbaycan edebiyatina tophi bir baki?," 
Azerbaycan Yurt Bilgisi, IV, 1954, pp. 40-48; "Adhari (Azen)," Encyclopaedia of 
Islam, new edition; "Buyiik Azeri alimi Mirza Kazim Bey," Azerbaycan Yurt 

Turkish Literature 

From the fifth/eleventh century onwards Turkish tribal and military units 
began to make raids into Asia Minor, so that Anatolia lay totally open to the 
Turks. Thus, the colonization of Asia Minor and Eastern Europe went on with 
great success. Thanks to the ability of these Turks to adapt themselves in 
course of time to the changing circumstances of life, they succeeded in founding 
on very firm bases a strong and lasting State. 

Bilgisi, I, 1932, pp. 62-68; "Ismail Bey Gaspirinski, 'Teroiman' in 50 yilkgi 
munasebetiyle," ibid., pp. 165-69; "Die tiirkische Sprachforschung und Professor 
Dr. Mehmet Fuad Kopriilu," Der Neue Orient, IX, 1929, pp. 40-45; W. Barthold, 
"Baykara," Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1959; J.B.Harrison, P. Hardy, and F. Kopriilu, 
"Babur," Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edition, I; L. Bouvat, "§haibanl," ibid., IV, 
1926 ; B. Spuler, "Abu 'l-Qhazi Bahadur Khan," ibid., I ; J. Eckmann, "Mirza Mehdis 
Darstellung der tsehagataischen Sprache," Analecta Orientalia Memoriae Alexandri 
Gsoma de Koros Dicata, Budapest, 1942-47, pp. 156-220; K. H. Menges, "Das 
Cajatajische," der DarsteUung von Mirza Mahdi Xan, Wiesbaden, 1956, No. 9, pp. 
627-739; H. Eren, "£agatay lugatleri hakkinda notlar," Ankara Vniversitesi DU ve 
Tarih-Goqrafya Fakultesi Dergisi, VIII, 1950, pp. 143-45; P. Horn, Geschithte der 
turkischen Moderne, 2. Auflage, Leipzig, 1909; M. Hartmann, Dichter der neuen 
Turkei, Berlin, 1919; "Aus der neueren osmanischen Dichtung," Mitteilungen des 
Seminars fur Orientalische Sprachen, XIX-XXI; Th. Menzel, Die tiirkische Literatur 
der Gegenwart, Neue Ausgabe, 283 pp.; "Tewfik Fikret," Encyclopaedia of Islam, 
IV, 1929; A. Fischer and A. Muhieddin, Anthologie aus der neuzeitlichen tiir- 
kischen Literatur, I, Leipzig-Berlin, 1919; E. Saussey, Prosateurs turcs contempo- 
rains, Paris, 1935, xxiii, 385 pp.; K. Akyiiz, Bati tesirinde Turk siiri antolojisi, 
2, basla, Ankara, 1958, XV, 857 + XLV pp.; O. Spies, "Der tiirkische Bauer 
in der Erzahlungsliteratur," Die Welt des Islams, Neue Serie IV/1, 1955, pp. 
40-46; Tiirkische Ghrestomatie aus modemer Literatur, 1957; J. Deny, "Shinasi," 
Encyclopaedia of Islam, IV, 1927; "Ahmad Wafik Pasha," ibid., new edition; 
M. Kaplan, Namik Kemal. Hayati ve eserleri, Istanbul, 1948, VI + 240 pp. ; A. H. 
Tanpinar, '"Abd al-Hakk Hamid (Abdulhak Hamit}," Encyclopaedia of Islam, 
new edition; S. E. Siyavusgil, "Ahmed Midhat Efendi," Islam Ansiklopedisi, I; 
J. H. Kramers, "Sami, Shams al-Din, SamI Bey Frashen," Encyclopaedia of Islam, 
IV, 1925; K. Akyiiz, Tevfik Fikret, Ankara, 1947, x + 354 pp.; P. N. Boratav, 
"Hiiseym Rahmi'nin romanciligi," Ankara Vniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-CoQrafya 
Fakultesi Dergisi, III/2, 1944-45, pp. 205-12; W. Bjdrkman, "Ahmad Rasim" 
and "Mehmed Emin Bey," Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edition; N. S. Banarh, 
Yahya Kemal yasarken, Istanbul, 1959, VII + 209 pp.; H. Yiicebas, Butun 
cepheleriyle Mehmet Akif, Istanbul, 1958; Z. F. Findikoglu, Ziya Gokalp, Sa 
vie et sa sociohgie, Paris, 1936; U. Heyd, Foudations of Turkish Nationalism 
(The Life and Teachings of Ziya Gokalp), London, 1950, 174 pp.; Gokalp, 
Turkish Nationalism and Western Civilization, Selected Essays of Ziya Gokalp, 
tr. and ed. with an introduction, by N. Berkes, 1959, 336 pp.; Y. Bey Vezirof, 
Azerbaycan edebiyatina bir nazar, Istanbul, 1337 A.H., 103 pp.; B. Cobanzade, 
Azeri edebiyatmm yeni devri, Baku, 1930; M. A. Nazim, "Azerbaydjanskaya 
khudojestvennaya literatura," Trudi aterbaydjanskogo filiala, XXX, Baku, 1936; 
M. E. Resulzade, CaQdas Azerbaycan edebiyati, Ankara, 1950; Antologiya azerbay- 
djankoy poesii, Moscow, 1939; V. Minorsky, "The Poetry of Shah Isma'il I," 
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, X/4, 1942; A. Genceli, 
"Tebrizli Saib," Turk Amaei, I, 1942-43, pp. 33-37, and II, 1942-43, pp. 52-60; 
A. V. Yurtsever, Sabir'in Azerbaycan edebiyatmda yeri, Ankara, 1951; H. W. 
Brands, "Akhund-zada," Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edition; Battal-Taymas, 
"Kirimh filolog-sair Bekir Cobanzade'yi tanitma tecriibesi," Turk Dili Arastirmcdan 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Parallel to the political and social development, Anatolian Turkish literature 
has had an uninterrupted development from the time of the Saljuqs down 
to the present day. It has, therefore, become the most important and richest 
branch of all the Turkish literatures and has exercised an influence on the 
literature of other dialects. 

Seventh j Thirteenth Century. — Already in the seventh/thirteenth century there 
developed in Anatolia a Turkish literature based mainly on the Oghuz dialect. 
The well-known Persian mystic. Jalal al-Din Rumi and his son Sultan Walad 
produced some Turkish verses ; Ahmad Faqih wrote a fairly long mystic poem ; 
and Shayyad Hamzah left poems of different genres. 

Yunus Emre was the greatest figure in this century. He is regarded 
as the best Turkish popular mystic poet. His art is essentially one of the 
people, i.e., it is Turkish. It was through his mystical verses that there develop- 
ed a tradition of writing poems in the language of the people and in the popular 
syllabic metre, which did not loose its power even in the period when Persian 
influence was at its highest. 

Classical profane literature had its first representative in Dahhani. 
His poems were in an elaborate style and attained a high degree of perfection 
from the technical point of view. 

Another poem of this eentury was 'All's Qissah-i Yusuf (Story of Joseph), 
representing linguistically a mixture of Central Asian literary Turkish and 
the vernacular Oghuz dialect. Moreoever, other works of this and even next 
century had more or less the same peculiar features, and the rather pure 
Oghuz dialectical features in the manuscripts of works of these centuries are 
probably to be ascribed to the later copyists. 7 

Ytllifii — BeUeten, 1954, pp. 233-73; "Kirimli Bekir Cobanzade'nin siirleri," 
Turkiyat Mecmuasi, XII, 1955, pp. 23-44; A. Samoilovitch, "Acerki po istorii 
turkmenskoy literatury," Turkmeniya, I, 1929; Wl. Zajaczkowski, "Skie literatury 
turkmensiej," Preglad Orientalictyczny, 1/4, 1952, pp. 106-11; E. Bertels, "The 
Study of the History of Turcoman Classical Literature in the Soviet Union," 
Papers Presented by the Soviet Delegation at the XXIIIrd International Congress 
of Orientalists, Iranian, Armenian, and Central Asian Studies, Moscow, 1954, pp. 
65-78; "Makhtumkuli o khudoshestvennom tvorchestve," Sov'et Edebiyati, 1944, 
No. 7, pp. 128-31; M. F. Koprulii, "Cagatay edebiyati," Islam Ansiklopedisi, III, 
1945, pp. 270-323; "Ali Sir Nevai ve tesirleri," Turk dili ve edebiyatt hakkinda 
araqtirmalar, Istanbul, 1934, pp. 257-72; "Un grand poete turc, Ali Sir Nevai," 
Ankara, October 15, 1936; "Ziya Pasa," Cumhuriyet, March 16, 1928; "Azeri," 
Islam Ansiklopedisi, II, 1942, pp. 118-51; "Hasan oglu," Darulfunun Edebiyat 
Fakultesi Mecmuasi, IV/1, 1925, pp. 77-98; '"Habibi," ibid., VIII/5, 1932, pp. 
86-133; "Ismail Bey Gaspirinski," Azerbaycan Yurt Bilgisi, II, 1933, pp. 154-55; 
"Turkoman Literature," Encyclopaedia of Islam, IV, 1931. 

7 Fr. Taeschner, "Zwei Gazels von Giilsehri," Aramagam, Istanbul, 1953, pp. 
479-85; Gulschehris Mesnewi auf Achi Evran, den Heiligen von Kirschehir und 
Patron der tiirkischen Zunjte, Wiesbaden, 1955, VIII + 81 + 13 pp.; Gulsehri, 
Manhku 't-tayr (in facsimile), preface by A. S. Levend, Ankara, 1957, 32 + 
298 pp.; F. Iz, "Ashik Pasha," Encyclopaedia of Islam, I, new edition; A. S. Levend, 
"Asik Pasa'mn bilinmeyen iki mesnevisi," Turk Dili Arastirmalart Ydlitji — 


Turkish Literature 

Eighth) Fourteenth Ce?iiury. — The literary development followed the same 
line in the eighth/fourteenth century. A certain number of feudal princes in 
Asia Minor lacked Persian or Arabic culture, and this was the reason why 
the language of the people became important, why books were written in 
Turkish, and also why a number of Muslim works were translated from 
Arabic and Persian into Turkish. During this century there developed in 
Anatolia several cultural centres, such as Quniyah, Nigde, Ladik, Kastamonu, 
Sinop, Sivas, Kirsehir, Bursa, and Iznik. 

Among the leading poets Ahmad Gulshahri should be mentioned for his 
artistic merit. He put into Turkish the Mantiq al-Tair (Speech of Birds) 
of the Persian poet 'Attar, expanding it with stories from various sources. 
We also possess a number of isolated poems of his. Although a mystic, his 
literary aims were purely artistic. 

The great mystic of this century is, however, 'AsMq Pasha with his long 
poem Gharibndmah (Book of the Stranger). He is a mere imitator of Jalal 
al-Din Rumi and Sultan Walad. There also exists a number of detached 
mystical poems from the pen of 'Ashiq Pasha, but all are far from showing 
the lyrical merit of Yunus Emre. 

In the second half of the century we find classical mystic poetry attaining 
high perfection in Nasimi. He is a great poet whose mystic lyrics are most 
expressive. His style is simple but full of power and harmony. In his Dlwan 
we find tuyughs, a verse-form peculiar to Turkish classical poetry and foreign 
to Persian literature. 

Romantic tales and fables were also taken from Persian literature. Among 
them is to be mentioned Mas'M's love story in verse, Suhail wa Naubahdr 
(two proper names), a translation or rather an expanded adaptation from an 
unknown Persian work. This story has considerable literary value. 

But, with the exception of Nasimi, Ahmadi is the greatest poet of this 
period. He is the author of the Iskandarndmah (Book of Alexander). The 
subject is taken from Persian sources, but he adds a long section dealing with 
world history including the Ottoman dynasty. His Dlwan is more interesting 
from the artistic point of view. Among his poems there are some which are 
of local interest. 

Further, we must mention Qadi Burhan al-Din who has left a Dlwan also 
containing tuyughs. His poems have a note of sincerity and passion of their 
own. He is the first to have attained perfection by the standards of classical 

Of prose works are to be mentioned an anonymous translation of Kalllah 

BeUeten, 1953, pp. 205-55 +13+15 in facsimile; "Asik Pasa'mn bilinmeyen 
iki mesnevisi daha," ibid., 1954, pp. 265-76 + 3 + 4 in facsimile; M. Fuad 
Kopruliizade, "Nesimi'ye dair," Hayat, I, 1927, p. 382; "Kadi Burhaneddin," 
Dergdh, II, 1922, pp. 180-81; Hoca Mes'ud, Suheyl u Nevbahdr, ed. J. H. 
Mordtmann, Hannover, 1924, 378 pp. in facsimile; G. L. Lewis, "Ahmadi," 
Encyclopaedia of Islam, I, new edition. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
tea Dimnah and the legendary tales of Dede Qorqut mainly about the Muslim- 
Christian struggle during the Turkish invasion of Anatolia and its vicinity, 
reflecting vividly the life, customs, and ideals of the Turks of the fifth/eleventh 
and sixth/twelfth centuries. 8 

Ninth/Fifteenth Century.— In the ninth/fifteenth century Turkish increased 
in importance as a literary and official language. In the first half of the century 
there were three great princely families who were patrons of scholars and 
poets: Karamanoghli at Quniyah, the Jandaroghli at Kastamonu, and the 
Ottoman Princes in Edirne and Bursa. As in the preceding centuries, the 
literary activity under them was not confined merely to the translation of 
Muslim works of a classical character. 

In popular religious literature we may mention the Maulld (Birth of the 
Prophet) poem of Sulaiman Chalabi and Ahmad. This fine work has all the 
qualities of a masterpiece. It has been read by the people, for centuries par- 
ticularly on the occasion of the religious commemoration of a dead person. 
In every century many similar poems have been written in imitation of it. 

The most important classical poet of this period is Shaikhi. His version of 
Khusrau vsa Shlrln of the Persian poet Nizami is more than a mere translation. 
The Kharnamah (Story of the Donkey) is a masterpiece of satire. He is also 
the author of a Dvwan which contains a considerable amount of panegyrics 
and love poems. His part in the establishment of classical poetry is great. His 
influence continued down to the tenth/sixteenth century. 

Another great classical poet of the period is Ahmad Pasha. He surpassed 
his contemporaries in panegyrics and love poems exercising, thus, a great 
influence on the poets of his time. Next to him in this field is Najati. 
A certain number of chronicles in verse belong to this period. 
Prose also developed considerably. In this connection we may mention the 
anonymous commentary on the Qur'an, Jawahir al-Asddf (Gems of Mothers- 
of-Pearl), and the more popular book Qirq Vezir Hikayalari (The Tales of 
the Forty Viziers). 

But it was mainly artistic prose that was cultivated, its most brilliant 
representative being Sinan Pasha with his Tadarru' Ndmah (Book of Supplica- 

8 M. Fuad Kopruliizade, "Anadolu'da Turk dil ve edebiyatmin tekamiilune 
umumi bir baksi," II. XV. asir, Yeni Turk Mecmuasi, 5, 1933, pp. 375-94; 
M. Fuad Koprulu, "Les poetes turcs d'Anatolie au Verne siecle," Ankara, February 
3 10 1938; N. Pekolcay, "Suleyman Qelebi mevlidi, metni ve mensei meselesi," 
Turk Dili ve Edebiyati Dergisi, VI, 1954-55, pp. 39-64; "Ahmed'in Mevlid 
isimli eseri," ibid., pp. 65-70; F. K. Timurtas, "Harname," ibid., III/3-4, 1949, 
pp. 369-87; "Seyhi'nin tip konusunda eseri," ibid., IV/42, 1955, pp. 340-43; 
"Seyhi'nin hayati ve sahsiyeti," ibid., V, 1953-54, pp. 91-120; "§eyhi'nin 
sohreti ve tesiri," ibid., VIII, 1958, pp. 84-89; "§eyhi'nin Husrev u §irin konusu," 
ibid., IX, 1959, pp. 89-110; H. Inalcik, "Ahmad Pasha, called Bursali," Encyclo- 
paedia of Islam, new edition; Fr. Taeschner, " ' Ashik-Pasha-zade," Encyclopaedia 
of Islam, new edition; "Deli Lutfis Mizah," published by O. Reseher, Onentalische 
Miszellen, II, 1926, pp. 40-43. 

Turkish Literature 

tion). His style is artistically elaborated, yet natural and sincere. Other 
representatives of artistic prose are Sari Kamal, Ahi, Masihi, and Ja'far 

As a reaction to this ornate language the first representative of the turki-i 
haslt (simple Turkish), Wisali who wrote in 'ariid metres but used exclusively 
Turkish words deserves to be noted. However, only one couplet of his has 
come to us. 

The writing of history in prose also began to develop. We have many anony- 
mous specimens of Ottoman history. They show us that there existed in the 
ninth/fifteenth century among the people and especially among the soldiers 
chronicles which were almost of the nature of epics. The historical works of 
'Ashiq Pashazadah, Oruch Beg, and others do not differ much in point of 
style from these anonymous chronicles. The works of Tursun Beg, Bayati, and 
some others, on the other hand, were written rather with the object of dis- 
playing a particular style and an extensive literary ability. 

A fine specimen of unaffected prose of this period is the treatise by Deli 
Lutfi, which is one of the oldest works of humour in Turkish literature. 9 

• M Fuad Kopriiluzade, "Anadolu'da Turk dil ve edebiyatmin tekamiilune 
umumi bir bakis," III, XVI, asir, Yeni Turk Mecmumi, 7, 1933, pp. 5 35-53; 
"Fuzuli'nin yeni eserle'ri," Azerbaycan Yurt Bitgisi, I, 1932, pp. 447-48; Milh 
edebiyat cereyamnin ilk miibessirleri ve Divan- itiirki-ibasit, XVI, asir sairUnnden 
Edirneli NazmVnin eseri, Istanbul, 1928; "Miiverrih Ali," Cumhunyet, March 15, 
1928 • M Fuad Koprulu, "Les poetes turcs d'Anatolie au XVIeme siecle," Ankara, 
February 24, March 4, 1938; "Fuzuli," Ankara, March 10, 1938; "Baki," Ankara, 
March 24 31, 1938; Th. Menzel, "Zatl," Encyclopaedia of Islam, IV, 1934, pp. 
1218-19- A. N. Tarlan, Hayali Bey Divam, Istanbul, 1945, xxiv + 450 pp. + 
16 plates; "Fuzuli'nin bilinmeyen kasideleri," Turk Dili ve Edebiyati Dergisi, 
III/1-2, 1948, pp. 193-209; "Fuzuli'nin bilinmoyen kasideleri, II," ibid., III/3-4, 
1949 pp. 411-27; Fuzuli Divani I. Gazel, musammat, mukatta ve rubai kmni, 

' -' ; + 247 pp.; "Fuzuli'nin bilinmeyen kasideleri, III," Turk Dili 

TV j3, 1951, pp. 257-64; Fevziye Aptullah, "Fuzuli'nin 
_ . „ „ „ .. "Fuzuli'nin bir mek- 

Istanbul, 1950, 3 
ve Edebiyati Dergisi, 

eazeUerine dair," Edebiyat, 1, 1934, pp. 16-23; H. l_ 
tubu," Ankara Universitesi Dil ve Tarih-Co$rafya Fakultesi Dergisi,Vl/3, 1948-49. 
pp 139-46; Kemal Edib, "Fuzuli'nin bilinmeyen siirlerinden bir kaci," ibid., 
VT/6 1948-49, pp. 319-28; A. Karahan, Fuzuli, Muhiti, hayati ve satisiyeti, 
Istanbul, 1949, xxiii + 309 + 10 pp. + 10 pp. in facsimile + 1 map; A. S. Levend, 
"Fuzuli'nin §ah u Geda'si," Turk Dili, 111/35, 1954, pp. 655-56; H. Mazioghi, 
Fuzuli - Hafiz. lki sair arasmda bir karsilastirma, Ankara, 1956, 375 pp. ; Fuzuli, 
Turkce Divan, Ankara, 1958, 537 pp.; F. Iz, "Baki," Encyclopaedia of Islam, new 
edition- F. N. Uzluk, "Lamii'nin latifelerinden," Turk Dili, IV/46, 1955, pp. 
609-11- Mehmed Ali Ayni, "Kinahzade Ali Qelebi," Mehmed Ah Aym, Turk 
ahldkcilari, I, Istanbul, 1937, pp. 77-104; "Khwadja Sa'daddln," Encyclopaedia 
of Islam; Fr. Babinger, "Sehi Celebi," Encyclopaedia of Islam, IV, 1926; Tezkere-i 
Ldtifi, edition by Ahmed Cevdet, Istanbul, 1314 A.H., 381 pp.; V. L. Menage, 
"Ashik Celebi," Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edition; Bahriye Pin Reis, Das 
turkische Segelhandbuch fur das Mittellandische Meer vom Jahre 1521, P. Kahle, 
I, Text, 1. Lieferung; II. Ubersetzung, 1. Lieferung, Berlin-Leipzig, 1926; Berga- 
mah Kadri, Muyessiret-ul-ulum (facsimile, transcription, text, index), edition by 
B. Atalay, Istanbul, xx + 247 + 182 pp. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Tenth J Sixteenth Century. — In the tenth/sixteenth century the apogee of 
Ottoman political power is also reflected in the sphere of literature. Literary 
activity flourished not only in Istanbul, but also in Baghdad, Diyar-i Bakr, 
Quniyah, Kastamonu, Bursa, Edirne, Yenije-u Vardar, and Tlskiip. Philo- 
logical commentaries and lexicographical and grammatical works were pro- 
duced. Books without number were translated from Arabic and Persian. 

The greatest figures in poetry in chronological order are: Dhati. Khayali. 
Fuduli, and Baqi. Dhati wrote a large number of works in poetry and prose 
which are unequal in merit. His imagination and new ideas made h i m 
very popular. Khayali surpasses Dhati as a poet. His Diman contains all his 
works. His most original poems are his love poems. Fuduli must be regarded 
as the greatest lyrical poet of Turkish literature. Although he used the dialect 
of Adharbaijan, he exercised such an influence in Anatolia that literary his- 
torians regard him belonging to the realm of Anatolian literature. His love 
poems and love romance Laila wa Majnun have secured him a special place 
in literary history. Love in his works is never entirely profane in character, 
thanks to mystic inspiration. No other poet except Nawa'i has acquired 
a like reputation throughout the whole Turkish world. He exercised an 
influence even on the musician poets of the lover classes. Baqi was undoubtedly 
the most reputed poet of his time, his fame stretching as far as India. In the 
expression of sentiment he is below Fuduli, but the musical charm and faultless 
ease of his poems have given him the reputation of an inimitable master of 
classicism. His elegy on the death of Sulaiman the Magnificent is a master- 
piece of deep sentiment and grief. 

At this period Anatolian Turkish poetry attained the highest point in 
artistic elaboration and rhetoric. It is true that this was in the main an 
imitation of Persian poetry. But the Anatolian Turkish poets imitated 
rather the Indo-Persian poetry and went even further in fineness and 
abstraction. In the next centuries we see this refinement perfected on its 
own lines. 

Poets belonging to different dervish-orders composed didactic works, mystic 
poems, and collections of legends of saints, along with translations of Arabic 
and Persian mystical works. 

Prose in this century assumed a heavier and more artificial form. Out- 
doing the Persian models, the simplest ideas were expressed by the most 
complicated images to the detriment of the subject. This lack of taste is 
found in the greatest stylists of the period: Lami'i, Kamal Pashazadah, 
Jalalzadah, Faridun Beg, 'Azmi, Qinalizadah, Khwajah Sa'd al-Din, and 
others. This tendency to artificiality had a much more disastrous effect on 
prose than on poetry. In very long works, however, it was only the preface 
that was written in this turgid and clumsy style. Many literary, historical, 
religious, or moralizing works of the period were in fact written in a simpler 
language. The same applies to official correspondence and other State docu- 
ments. In religious works intended for the people every endeavour was made 

Turkish Literature 

to write as simply as possible. The examples which we possess of the prose of 
Fuduli and Baqi show an elegant and relatively simple language. 

As a reaction to the ornate language, the movement called turki-i bastt 
(simple Turkish) has its second well-known exponent in Nazmi of Edirne 
whose Diwan, though, again, in 'arud verse, contains only Turkish words. But 
he has no artistic abilities. 

In the field of historical works great progress was made. Besides rhymed 
chronicles, we find historical works in prose in continuation of the Saljuq 
tradition. A number of historical works were written in verse. With the excep- 
tion of the Ottoman history by Hadidi they always deal with a single event 
or the victories of a single emperor or commander. General histories were 
composed by ibn Kamal, Jalalzadah, Mustafa Chalabi, Muhi al-Dln Jamali, 
Lutfi Paslja, Khwajah Sa'd al-Din, and 'AIL Some of these works are the 
sources for our knowledge of the social history of this period. 

Among historical works those which deal with literary history occupy an 
important place. The first Ottoman collection of biographies of poets was 
produced by Shahi Beg on the model of Nawa'i's work. Tins was followed 
by the works of Latin, 'Ashiq Chalabi, 'Ahdi, and Hasan Chalabi. *Ali also 
gives important notices of poets in his historical work. 

It is in this century that there appeared geographical works and accounts 
of travels. Some are mere translations. The celebrated Bahriyyah (Maritime 
Work) of Phi Ra'is, and Muhtt (Ocean) and Mir'at ai-Mamalik (Mirror of 
Lands) of Saidi 'AM Ra'is are the best works of this type. We have further 
records of voyages both in verse and in prose. 

The first grammar of Anatolian Turkish, planned on the model of Arabic 
grammars, by Qadri of Pergamon, was also written in this century. 

Alongside classical literature we find popular literature increasing in every 
form. Wandering musician-poets were to be found wherever people congre- 
gated, and love songs, heroic tales, elegies, and folk-songs were recited. 10 

Eleventh} Seventeenth Century. — In the eleventh/seventeenth century know- 
ledge of the Ottoman literary language spread among the Muslim lower 
classes generally and also through districts to the non-Turkish population 
or Turks speaking a non-Ottoman Turkish dialect. The influence of Turkish 
literature and culture is found as early as the tenth/sixteenth century 
in the use of Arabic script by the Muslim Hungarians and Croats. There are 

10 M. Fuad Koprulii, "Les poetes turcs d'Anatolie au XVIIeme siecle," Ankara, 
April, 7, 14, 1938; "Nef'i," Ankara, May 12, 19, 1938; "Asik Omer (xvii. asir saz 
sairi)," M. F. Koprvlu, Turk saz sairleri, II, xvi-xviii, aair, Istanbul, 1940, pp. 
193-256; A. Karahan, Nobi, Istanbul, 1953; J. Walsch, '"At&'I," Encyclopaedia 
of Islam, new edition; Th. Menzel, "Waisi," Encyclopaedia of Islam, IV, 1933; 
M. Fuad Kopriiliizade, "Katip gelebi," Gumhuriyet, February 25, 1928; "Pecewi," 
Encyclopaedia of Islam; "Naima," Cumhuriyet, February 27, 1928; "Qochi Beg," 
Encyclopaedia of Islam; M. C. Baysun, "Evliya Qelebi," Islam Ansiklopedisi; 
S.- N. Ergun, Karaca Ojflan, Istanbul, 1950; M. H. Bayri, "§iirlerine nazaran 
Gevheri," Yeni Turk Mecmuasi, 75-76, 1939, pp. 103-06. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

also found dictionaries of Turkish-Serbian, Turkish-Bosaniak, and Turco-Greek 
in verse. Istanbul was always the centre to which men of letters and learning 
flocked from all parts of the Ottoman Empire and from beyond its frontiers. 

The classical Turkish poetry of the eleventh/seventeenth century was in 
no respect below the level of the Persian models. The Turkish poets by this 
time were working on original themes, though the influence of the Persian 
and Indo-Persian poets was still felt. 

Naf'i may be regarded as the greatest master of eulogies (qasidahs), on 
account of the power of his imagination, the richness of his language, and 
the elevation and harmony of his style. His love poems and bis satires (hajiviy- 
yat), on the other hand, are less successful. 

Another very important classical poet was Nabi who is renowned for his 
refined didactical poems and descriptions. His verses are still quoted as pro- 
verbs. He was also the one who protested against artificial language, 
saying: "The ghazal book is not a dictionary." 

The greatest figure in romance poems (mathnawi) is Nav'izada 'Ata'i who 
takes his subjects from the life of his time. 

The number of religious and mystical works, lives of saints, and didactic 
works connected with different orders is very great in this century. Poetical 
forms were often used for them. 

Literary prose follows the same lines as in the preceding century. The 
great stylists like Vaisi, Narkisi Oqchizadah, and others carried affectation 
of language to still greater lengths. Yet works which were in their days con- 
sidered to have no literary value are now being greatly appreciated. 

As an encyclopedist, Katib Chalabi's name must be mentioned. 

Histories in this century also took the first place among prose-works. There 
are several which have the character of semi-official chronicles. Mainly, though 
they are translations of general histories of Islam, there are also original works 
on the same subject, and general and special works and monographs on Ottoman 
history. The best historians are Katib Chalabi, Pachavi, Na'ima, and Qochi 
Beg. The verse chronicles are much below the level of those of the tenth/six- 
teenth century. The most notable are those of Riyadi and Qafzadah Fa'idi. 

In the field of geography the most important works are those of Katib 
Chalabi and abu Bakr Dimashqi. They use European as well as Muslim sources. 
The Sayahatnamah (Voyage Book) of Avliya Chalabi is important as history 
of all aspects of social life. 

The great popularity of the literature of the people continued in this cen- 
tury in all classes of society. The musician-poets became very numerous. We 
find them in the military classes and in the religious orders. The most important 
of them are Karaja Oghlan Gavhari and 'Ashiq 'Umar. The influence of this 
popular literature is felt even among the upper classes. 11 

11 M. F. Koprulii, "Les poetes turcs d'Anatolie au XVIIIeme sieele," Ankara, 
June 9, 1938; "Kodja Raghib Pasha," Encyclopaedia of Islam; "Ahmed Nedim," 

Turkish Literature 

Twelfth] Eighteenth Century. — Literature and culture continued in the twelfth/ 
eighteenth century to follow the same lines as in the preceding centuries. There 
was a vast output in prose and poetry, while the cultural links with Persia 
and Transoxiana continued. But the tendency to a more individual develop- 
ment gained in strength. Endeavour was made to simplify the language. 

Among the poets Nadim in particular acquired a great reputation. By his 
original themes, rich imagination, sparkling wit, and harmonious language 
he surpassed his predecessors and contemporaries. He was the poet who 
brought much local colour to Turkish literature. He was famous with his 
sharqis, another verse-form peculiar ta Turkish classical poetry and foreign 
to Persian literature. One of his poems he composed in the Turkish syllabic 
metre and the national form ttirkii. 

Among the great poets of this century special mention must be made of 
Raghib Pasha, the last great poet of the classical period. 

The poets of this century practised all forms of poetry, but special attention 
was devoted to genres characteristic of an epoch of decadence. On the other 
hand, true religious inspiration still continued. The last masterpiece of romantic 
poetry was Shaikh Ghalib's Husn-o l Ishq (Beauty and Love) with its mystical 
inspiration and very fine style. 

Literary prose tended to become gradually simpler, although imitations of 
the old artificial style were still found. A well-known stylist, 'Uthmanzadah 
Ta'ib openly denounced exaggerated artificiality in prose. Historical works 
occupied the first place, but they could not be compared to those of the 
preceding century. 

The political and military decline of the Ottoman Empire stimulated the 
writing of a large number of memoirs investigating its causes. The most 
remarkable of these is that of Qoja Segban Bashi. 

From the point of view of geography we may note a number of important 
descriptions by ambassadors of which that of France by Yirmi Sekiz Muham- 
mad Chalabi is a typical and very interesting example. We may also notice 
a number of translations of European works on geography. 

The writings celebrating the splendid festivals held by the Sultans are 
important sources for sociological research. 

The collections of biographies of poets are even more numerous than in the 
preceding century. 

Popular literature continued to enjoy the same popularity among all classes 
of society. The works of the musician-poets were also well known. Taste for 
such literature penetrated more into the upper classes. 

In this century Ibrahim Mutafarriqah inaugurated printing in Turkish 
script, but for several reasons printing remained confined to a very restricted 

Ankara, June 29, 1937; Sadettin Niizhet, §eyh Galib. Hayat ve eaerleri, Istanbul, 
1936; M. Fuad Kopriiluzade, "Osmanzade Taib'e dair," Turkiyat Mecmuast, II, 
1928, pp. 427-30. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

sphere throughout the century and did not exercise any particular influence 
on intellectual and artistic life. 12 

Thirteenth! Nineteenth Century.— At the beginning of the thirteenth/nine- 
teenth century Ottoman literature sank to a very low level which continued 
till the period of political reform. It was only natural that the old literary 
tradition could not disappear at one stroke. 

The prose of the period before the political reforms was not of much value, 
although its production was not less in quantity than that of the preceding 
centuries. The historical work by Mutarcim 'Asim was remarkable for its 
style and critical analysis. He used even simpler language in his translation 
of Burhan-i QdtV (The Definite Proof) and the Qamus (Lexicon). Lastly, men- 
tion must be made of the celebrated poet and stylist 'Akif Pasha who, on 
account of several poems written in the popular metre and some works in 
simple prose, could be regarded as the first to have spread literary innovations. 

We also had representatives of popular literature. The best known musician- 
poets were Dertli, Dhihni. and Amrah. 


1. Turkish is an agglutinative language. The root which is either verbal 
or nominal and which (except in the case of certain pronouns) is never in- 
flected, always appears at the beginning of the word. Verbal forms are built 
from the verb-stem, which may be a simple root or a root modified by for- 
mative suffixes. The verb-stem is followed by suffixes indicating aspect and 
tense ("voice" and "negation" being shown by aspect suffixes), to produce 
the tense-stem which, without further suf fixation, expresses the third person 
singular; other persons are indicated by the addition of a personal suffix. 
The resultant word is a unit as regards stress, intonation, and sound harmony, 
i.e., assimilation of sounds tending to conform the sounds of the suffixes to 
the root in general. Phonetic changes in the root or suffixes do not imply 
semantic modifications. 

Nominal forms again are built out of the noun-stem, which may be a 
simple root or a root modified by formative suffixes. 

Prefixes and infixes do not exist in Turkish. 

The syntax of the language is based essentially on the following principle. 
The governing parts of a grammatical statement or of a group of statements 

12 M. F. Kopriilii, "Les poetes turcs d'Anatolie au XlXeme siecle," Ankara, 
June 16, 1938; "Erzummlu Emrah {xix. asir saz §airi)," M. F. Kopriilii, Turk 
saz §airleri, Antoloji, III, xix-xx, asirlar, Istanbul, 1940, pp. 577-640; "Asik 
Dertli (xix. asir saz sairi)," ibid., pp. 641-704; M. §. Olkiitasir, "Miitercim Asim 
(1755-1819)," Turk Dili, 1/1, 1951, p. 34; A. H. Tanpinar, "Akif Pasa," Islam 
Ansiklopedisi, I; Z. F. Findikoglu, Bayburtlu Zihni, Istanbul, 1950, 125 pp. 


Turkish Literature 

follow the parts governed. Hence the principal part of the statement or of 
a group of statements, i.e., the finite verb or predicate, is usually placed at 
the end, the completed parts follow the complement, the qualified elements 
(nominal or verbal) are put after their qualifiers (adjectival or adverbial), 
and the principal statement follows the subordinate ones. 

Turkish in its original form did not include conjunctions. The only sub- 
ordinate clause which is attested from the earliest documents onwards is 
the conditional. 

The characteristics of the Turkish language outlined above are to be 
found in the earliest surviving Turkish documents, which date from the 
first/seventh century. 

2. This "pure" language, however, underwent a considerable change when 
pagan Turks came into contact with the Far Eastern civilizations and reli- 
gions. The Turkish literary output of the period before the adoption of 
Islam was mainly translations of the scriptures of various religions. Such 
translations of sacred texts had to be as literal as possible. Of course, it 
is no wonder that under the influence of the non-Turkish structures of the 
languages so translated, this literary dialect, while preserving its native 
participial and gerundial constructions, acquired new types of subordinate 
clauses, partly with defective constructions and developed conjunctions formed 
from Turkish roots. In the field of vocabulary also we find technical expressions, 
borrowed from the more developed languages of the Far East. This does not, 
however, mean that such borrowings were numerous. On the contrary, a great 
number of expressions were mere Turkish translations from these languages. 

3. As to linguistic peculiarities of the first Islamic literary dialect in Central 
Asia, it differed but slightly from Old Turkish. Religious terms markedly 
connected with the Far Eastern religions were no more to be found. In their 
place, we find Islamic terminology. But this latter was not so widespread as 
one would expect or find in later literary works. Instead Far Eastern terms 
or Turkish caiques from them were still common. The development in the 
direction of an analytical sentence structure was less pronounced. Though 
subordinate clauses of the Indo-European and Semitic types began to develop 
in general, the Turkish sentence with its participial and gerundial forms still 
prevailed. Nevertheless, new conjunctions were created out of Turkish words 
or borrowed from Arabic and Persian, and these to a great extent encouraged 
the development of new Turkish subordinate clauses. 

On the other hand, popular words of the Karakhanidian period show very 
little foreign influence. Both in syntax and lexicography, this influence was 
restricted to the minimum. In this respect the popular literary products of 
the earliest Turkish Islamic literature resembled the runic inscriptions. 

4. In the Khwarizmian period, Arabic and Persian exercised an increasing 
influence on Turkish syntax. Both in verse and in prose, the basically fixed 
Turkish word-order became more flexible and the rich stock of terminations 
that henceforth developed in the language prevented ambiguity and gave it 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

greater clarity. The borrowings from the two main Islamic culture languages, 
Arabic and Persian, increased. Vocabulary was further enriched by the use 
of Arabic and Persian loan-words, though the Far Eastern loan-words were 
still common, and inversion, particularly in verse, was now used to a greater 
extent. Until the ninth/fifteenth century, Anatolian Turkish also reveals the 
same characteristics. 

5. During the classical period of Ottoman literature, the syntactical influence 
of Persian in the construction of sentences did not increase. Rather it diminished 
in the course of time. 

The old Turkish type of sentence with only a single finite verb, but using 
many participial and gerundial forms was particularly in use in Ottoman 
prose. This made the formation of very long sentences possible. Inversion, 
however, particularly in verse, was greatly practised. Persian and Arabic 
loan-words and grammatical forms became more numerous and Far Eastern 
loan-words were totally forgotten. 

6. In modern Turkish, the syntactical influence of Persian in sentence 
constructions has left few traces. On the other hand, modern writers 
have drawn fully on the resources of popular speech; the language has thus 
been greatly enriched and rendered much more expressive, thanks to the 
harmonious combination of the synthetic structure of the old language with 
the freer construction and more vivid turns of expression of everyday spoken 

New constructions of subordinate clauses with conditional or temporal 
force, formed from a finite verb followed by the interrogative ending, have 
become meaningless. 

In the Turkish vocabulary, Persian and Arabic loan-words have become 
much less numerous, giving place to Turkish words, some of which have 
even been invented. Loan-words from the European languages, mainly at 
first from Italian then from French, are to be noticed. 

7. Thus, we see that in the process of evolution, owing partly at least to the 
influence of languages of other structural types, both Eastern and Western, 
Turkish has developed conjunctions, other types of subordinate clauses, and 
a freer word-order in the sentence. 



K.Gronbech, Der turkische Sprachbau, Copenhagen, 1936, 182 pp. ; C.F. Voegelin 
and M. E. Ellinhausen, "Turkish Structure," Journal of the American Oriental 
Society, LXHI, 1943, pp. 34-56, and American Oriental Society Publication antf 
Offprint Series,T$o. 17, Indiana University ; J.Deny, "Structure de la langue turque/' 
Confirences de VInstitut de IAnguistique de VUniversiU de Paris, Paris, IX and X, 
1949-50, 35 pp. ; "Langues turques," Les Langues du Monde, Societi de Lmguistiques 
de Paris, Paris, 1952, pp. 331-68; N. Poppe, "Altaisch und Urturkisch," Ungari- 



sche Jahrbucher, VI, 1926, pp. 94-121; "Plural Suffixes in the Altaic Languages," 
Ural-AUaische JaJirbucher, XXIV/3-4, 1952, pp. 65-84; "Einige Lautgesetze und 
ihre Bedeutung zur Frage der mongolisch-turkischen Sprachbeziehungen," ibid., 
XXX/1-2, 1958, pp. 93-97; P. Pelliot, "Les formes avec et sans q- (k-) en turc 
et en mongol," Toung Poo, XXXVII, 1944, pp. 73-101; D. Sinor, "D'un mor- 
pheme particulierement repandu dans les langues ouralo-altaiques," ibid., XXXVII, 
1944, pp. 135-52; . "Le Probleme de la parente des langues ouralo-altaiques," 
Revue de Geographie Humaine et d'Ethnologie, I, 1948, pp. 65-69; K. H. Menges, 
"Altaic Languages," Collier's Encyclopaedia, I, New York City, 1949, pp. 414-19; 
W. Kotwicz, Les pronoms dans les langues altaiques, Cracow, 1936, 80 pp.; "Contri- 
butions aux etudes altaiques," Bocznik Orientalistyczny, XVI, 1950, pp. 327-68; 
"Studia nad jezykami altajskimi," ibid., pp. 1-134; A. Temir, "Turkce ve mogolca 
arasinda ilgiler," Ankara Vniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Co§rafya Fakultesi Dergisi, 
III/1-2, 1955, pp. 1-25; G. J. Ramstedt, Einfuhrung in die altaische Sprachwissen- 
schaft, I, Lautlehre, Helsinki, 1957; A. Caferoglu, "Uygurlarda hukuk ve maliye 
istilahlari," Turkiyat Mecmuasi, IV, 1934, pp. 1-47. 

Part 2. Fine Arts 

Chapter LV 


Arabia, at the rise of Islam, does not appear to have possessed anything 
worthy of the name of architecture. Only a small proportion of the population 
was settled and hived in dwellings which were scarcely more than hovels. 
Those who lived in mud-brick houses were called ahl ai-madar, and the Bedouin, 
from their tents of camel's-hair cloth, ahl al-wabar. 

The sanctuary at Mecca, in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, merely 
consisted of a small roofless enclosure, oblong in shape, formed by four walls 
a little higher than a man, built of rough stones laid dry. Within this enclosure 
was the sacred well of Zamzam. 

When the Prophet Muhammad, as a result of the hostility of the unbelieving 
Meccans, migrated to Medina, he built a house for himself and his family. It 
consisted of an enclosure about one hundred cubits square of mud-bricks, with 
a portico on the south side made of palm trunks used as columns to support 
a roof of palm leaves and mud. Against the outer side of the east wall were 
built small huts (hujardt) for the Prophet's wives, all opening into the courtyard. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

We have the description of these huts, preserved by ibn Sa'd, 1 on the authority 
of a man named 'Abd Allah ibn Yazid who saw them just before they were 
demolished by order of al-Walid. "There were four houses of mud-bricks, 
with apartments partitioned off by palm branches, and five houses made of 
palm branches plastered with mud and not divided into rooms. Over the 
doors were curtains of black hair-cloth. Each curtain measured 3x3 cubits. 
One could reach the roof with the hand." Such was the house of the leader 
of the community at Medina. 

The Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem, the oldest existing monument of 
Muslim architecture, was built by the Caliph 'Abd al-Malik and completed 
in 72/691. It was an annular building and consisted of a wooden dome, set 
on a high drum, pierced by sixteen windows and resting on four piers and 
twelve columns, placed in a circle. This circle of supports was placed in the 
centre of a large octagon, averaging about 20.59 m. a side, formed by 
eight walls, each pierced by five windows in their upper half. There was a 
door in each of the four sides of the octagon. The space between the circle 
and the octagon being too great to be conveniently spanned by single beams, 
an intermediate octagon was placed between the two to provide the necessary 
support for the roof. The two concentric ambulatories thus formed were 
intended for the performance of the tawdf. The piers and columns were so 
planned that, instead of concealing one another, they permit, from almost 
any position, a view right across the building. A twist of about 2 J degrees 
was given to the central ring of supports, with the result that an observer 
entering by any door can see not only the central column in front of him but 
also the central column on the far side. The exterior was always panelled 
with marble for half its height, as it is today, but the upper part was originally 
covered with glass mosaic (fusaifisa) like the inner arcades. This was replaced 
by the present coating of faience by Sultan Sulaiman in 959/1552. The 
harmony of its proportions and the richness of its decoration make the Dome 
of the Rock one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. 

The Great Mosque of Damascus. — 'Abd al-Malik died in 86/705 and was 
succeeded by his son al-Walid, who immediately began the construction of 
the Great Mosque of Damascus. A curious situation had prevailed here since 
the conquest. A great sanctuary of a Syrian god existed here, consisting of 
a temenos, or sacred enclosure, measuring 100 m. from north to south and 
150 m. from east to west, set in an outer enclosure over 300 m. square. Within 
the temenos was a temple. 

In the fourth century Christianity became the State religion and Theodosius 
(379-395 A.D.) converted the temple into a church. 2 After the Arab conquest, 
the temenos was divided between Muslims and Christians. Ibn Shakir says 
that they both "entered by the same doorway, placed on the south side 

1 Tabaqat, Vol. XLIII, p. 190. 

2 Malalas, Chronographia, pp. 344-45. 


where is now the great mihrdb; then the Christians turned to the west towards 
their church {i.e., the converted temple), and the Muslims to the right to 
reach their mosque, presumably under the southern colonnade of the temenos 
where is now the "mihrdb of the Companions of the Prophet." As for the 
corner towers, ibn al-Faqih (p. 108) says: "The minarets (mi'dhanah) which 
are in the Damascus Mosque were originally watch towers in the Greek 
days .... When al-Walid turned the whole area into a mosque, he left these 
in their old condition." Mas'Qdi 3 says: "Then came Christianity and it became 
a church; then came Islam and it became a mosque. Al-Walid built it solidly 
and the saivdmi' (the four corner towers) were not changed. They serve for 
the call to prayers at the present day." This state of affairs lasted until al- 
Walid, after bargaining with the Christians, demolished everything except 
the outer walls and the corner towers and built the present mosque. 

The mosque had a court (sahn), an oblong rectangle, surrounded on three 
sides by a portico. On the south side was the sanctuary nearly 136 m. in length 
and a little over 37 m. in depth, formed by three arcades running parallel to 
the south wall. A broad transept, running from north to south, cut these 
arcades into two nearly equal halves, each half consisting of eleven arches. 
Above these arcades was a second tier of small arches, there being twe of 
these small arches to every one of the main arches below. The arched openings 
were filled with stucco lattices, and must be regarded as windows. The interior 
was adequately lit, even when the doors of the main arches next to the safari 
were closed. 

The decoration consisted of marble panelling (some parts of the original 
panelling exist next to the east entrance) above which ran a golden karmah or 
vine-scroll frieze, and above that was glass mosaic (fusaifisa) right up to the 
ceiling. A considerable amount has survived the three fires of 462/1069, 804/ 
1401, and 1311/1893, and may still be seen under the west portico (over 34 m. 
in length and nearly 7 m. high), where the famous panorama of the Barada 
(the river of Damascus) is in full view. When intact the surface of the fusaifisa 
must have been greater than in any building in existence ! The Great Mosque 
of Damascus was rightly regarded by medieval Muslims as one of the seven 
wonders of of the world. Al-Walid also enlarged and rebuilt the Great Mosque 
of Medina in 89/708 wherein the concave mihrdb appeared for the first time. 

Another building due to al-Walid was the audience hall and hammdm, 
known today as Qusair 'Amrah, in Transjordan. It consists of an audience 
hall about 10 m. square, with two slightly pointed transverse arches supporting 
three tunnel- vaults. There is a vaulted recess on the side opposite the entrance, 
with a small vaulted room on either side of it. A door on the east side gives 
access to the hammdm, which consists of three small rooms successively 
covered by a tunnel vault, a cross vault, and a dome. The latter was the 
calidarium, or hot chamber, and under the floor are hypocausts exactly as 

Prairies, Vol. IV, pp. 90-91. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

in a Roman bath. But most remarkable of all are the paintings which cover 
the walls, mostly scenes from daily life, a hunting scene, and figures symbolizing 
history, poetry, and philosophy with the words in Greek above their heads. 
The dome of the adidarium was painted to represent the vault of heaven, with 
the Great Bear, the Little Bear, the signs of the Zodiac, etc. But most important 
of all was the painting of the enemies of Islam defeated by the Umayyads, 
with their names written above them in Greek and Arabic: Qaisar (the 
Byzantine Emperor), Rodorik (the Visigothic King of Spain), Chosroes, 
Negus (the King of Abyssinia), and two more names which have been 

Painting, contrary to the popular idea, is not forbidden by any passage 
in the Qur'an, and hostility to it took proper theological form only towards 
the end of the second/eighth century. 4 

To sum up, the monuments of Umayyad architecture are really magnificent 
structures of cut stone with arcades resting on marble columns, splendidly 
decorated internally with marble panelling and mosaic (fusaifisa). The 
mosques are nearly always covered with a gable roof. The minarets were tall, 
square towers, derived from the church towers of pre-Muslim Syria, and the 
triple-aisled sanctuaries were due to the same influence. Umayyad monuments 
exhibit a mixture of influences, Syria occupying the first place and Persia 
the second, while Egyptian influence is definitely demonstrable at the end 
of this period at Mushatta. Umayyad architecture employed the following 
devices: the semi-circular, the horse-shoe and the pointed arch, flat arches 
or lintels with a semicircular relieving arch above, joggled voussoirs, tunnel- 
vaults in stone and brick, wooden domes, and stone domes on true spherical- 
triangle pendentives. The squinch does not appear to have been employed. 
But we know from the descriptions of early authors that a type of mosque 
which prevailed in Iraq had walls of bricks (sometimes of mud-bricks) and 
its flat timber roof rested directly on the columns without the intermediary 
of arches. Here we have a direct link between the ancient Persian audience- 
hall (apadana) and the flat-roofed portico (taldr) of more recent Persian 

At about this time the Aqsa Mosque at Jerusalem was partly rebuilt by 
the Caliph al-Mahdi. Recent research enables us to affirm that it then con- 
sisted of a central aisle, 11.50 m. wide, with seven aisles to right and seven to 
left, each about 6.15 m. in width, all covered by gable roofs and all perpendicular 
to the qiblah wall. There was a great wooden dome at the end of the central 
aisle. On the north side was a large central door with seven smaller ones to 
right and left, and eleven "unornamented" ones on the eastern side. 

°This mosque had a great influence on the Great Mosque of Cordova built 
in 170/786-787 by 'Abd al-Rahman I, the last survivor of the Umayyad family. 

* K. A. C. Creswell, "Lawfulness of Painting 
XL-XII, pp. 159-66. 

l Early Islam," Ars Isktrnica, 


It was added to on three occasions but this earliest part still exists; as at 
Jerusalem, the aisles, of which there are eleven, all run perpendicular to the 
back wall; they are all covered by parallel gable roofs, and the central one 
is wider than the rest. The influence of Syria in Spain at this time is not 
surprising, for Spain was full of Syrian refugees. 

Another building of this period of great importance in the history of archi- 
tecture is the Cistern of Ramlah in Palestine ; it consists of a subterranean 
excavation 8 m. deep divided into six aisles by five arcades of four arches 
each, all of which are pointed and appear to be struck from two centres, 
varying from one-seventh to one-fifth of the span apart. And there can be 
no doubt about the date, for on the plaster of the vault is a Kufic inscription 
of Dhu al-Hijjah 172/May 789. It is, therefore, centuries earlier than the 
earliest pointed arches in Europe. 

The Arabs first set foot on the North African soil as conquerors in 19/640 
under the courageous command of 'Amr ibn al-'As. The whole of Egypt was 
occupied within less than two years and ibn al-'As made the military camp 
at al-Fustat, a site south of modern Cairo. Al-Fustat continued to be the 
capital of Egypt until the Fatimids in 360/969 founded Cairo. 'Amr con- 
structed a simple mosque at al-Fustat, the first in Africa, in 20-21/641-642. 
Enlarged and improved under the Umayyads, this structure, in the course 
of time, grew into the celebrated mosque of al-Fustat. 

The mosque of 'Amr was first enlarged at the order of Caliph Mu'awiyah 
in 53/673 6 and four minarets were erected at the four corners. This was the 
first time that minarets were introduced in any Muslim structure. 

The next major enlargement of this mosque took place during the reign of 
Caliph al-Mamiin in 212/827 at the hands of 'Abd Allah ibn Tahir, Governor 
of Egypt. Since then it has been repaired and rebuilt more than once. 

The mosque of 'Amr is now a big enclosure. The side walls were each pierced 
by twenty-two windows lighting the twenty-two aisles. There were three 
mihrabs and seven arcades in the sanctuary ; each arcade consisted of nineteen 
arches on twenty columns. The arcades were all braced with decorated tie- 

We must now speak of the great mosque of Siisa on the gulf of Gabes, which, 
the inscription of its wall tells us, was built by abu al- 'Abbas ibn al-Aghlab 
in 236/850-51. It consists of a perfectly regular rectangle measuring 49.39 m. x 
57. 1 6 m. internally, with irregular annexes to east and west. The sahn, measuring 
roughly 41 m. x 22.25 m., is surrounded by low arcades of slightly horse-shoe 
form, resting on squat T-shaped piers. There are eleven arches to north and 
south and six to east and west. These arches are of horse-shoe form, the 
maximum span of each being equal to the space between the piers below. 
The sanctuary consists of thirteen aisles, formed by twelve arcades of six 

5 Idem, A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture, Pelican Edition, London, 
1958, p. 13. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

arches running from north to south, each divided into six bays by other 
arcades running from east to west. Internally it is perfectly plain except for 
a splay-face moulding, immediately above which is a fine inscription frieze 
in simple undecorated Kufic, the maximum height of the characters being 
28 m. The frieze in which they are carved curves forward slightly to com- 
pensate for fore-shortening and thus help the observer at ground level. This 
is the earliest known example of this treatment, which passed into Egypt 
with the Fatimids and appears in the Mosque of al- Hakim, 380-403/990-1013. 
The Great Mosque of Samarra was built by the Caliph al-Mutawakkil ; the 
work was begun in 234/848-849 and finished in Ramadan 237/February-March 
852. It is the largest mosque ever built, for its outer walls form an immense 
rectangle of kiln-baked bricks measuing roughly 240 m. deep internally by 
156 m. wide (proportion approximately as 3 : 2); its area, therefore, is nearly 
38,000 sq. m. Only the enclosing walls have been preserved. The mosque 
proper was surrounded by an outer enclosure, or ziyadah, on the east, north, 
and west sides, and air photographs show that the great rectangle thus formed 
stood in a still greater enclosure measuring 376 m. x 444 m. The minaret, the 
famous Malwiyah, stands free at a distance of 27 1 m. from the north wall 
of the mosque. There is a socle 3 m. high on which rests a spiral tower with a 
ramp about 2.30 m. wide, which winds round in a counterclockwise direction 
until it has made five complete turns. The rise for each turn is 6.10 m., but 
as the length of each turn is less than the previous one it follows that the 
slope inevitably becomes steeper and steeper. At the summit of this spiral 
part is a cylindrical storey, decorated with eight recesses, each set in a shallow 
frame. The southern niche frames a doorway at which the ramp ends; it 
opens on to a steep staircase, at first straight then spiral, leading to the top 
platform, which is 50 m. above the socle. From eight holes to be seen here 
Herzfeld concluded that there was probably a little pavilion on wooden columns. 
A few years later, between 246-247/860-861, another immense mosque was 
built by the same Caliph at Abu Dulaf to the north of Samarra. 

Ten years later, important works were carried out in the Great Mosque 
of Qairawan by Abu Ibrahim Ahmad, who reduced the width of the central 
aisles by about 1.20 m. by constructing two new arcades in contact with the 
old ones. The arches of these arcades are pointed horse-shoe arches instead 
of round horse-shoe arches like those with which they are in contact. He also 
built three free-standing arches and one wall-arch of the same type to carry a 
fluted dome in front of the mihrab. They rise to a height of 9.15 m. and the 
square thus formed is terminated above by a cornice, its top edge being 10.83 m. 
from the ground. On it rests the octagonal zone of transition, 2.15 m. in height, 
which is formed by eight semicircular arches springing from colonnettes 
resting on little corbels inserted in the cornice just mentioned. The drum is 
composed of eight arched windows and sixteen arched panels arranged in 
pairs between the windows. The dome, which is 5.80 m. in diameter, has 
twenty-four ribs, each springing from a little corbel; between the ribs are 

concave segments, 30 cm. deep at the base and diminishing to nothing afc 
the apex. The whole composition is charming. Externally the dome resembles 
a Cantaloup melon, with twenty-four convex ribs (corresponding to the 
twenty-four concave segments) which taper to nothing at the apex. Abu 
Ibrahim's work was carried out in 248/862. He also lined the mifyrab with a 
series of very beautiful carved marble panels assembled in four tiers of seven 
panels each, the total height being 2.70 m. He also decorated the face of the 
vnifyrab and the wall surrounding it with lustre tiles about 21 cm. square. The 
marble panels and the tiles were imported by him from Iraq, and the latter 
constitute the oldest examples of lustre pottery of certain date. 

It was during the reign of Ahmad ibn Tulun (254-270/868-884), the first 
Muslim sovereign of independent Egypt, that Muslim architecture properly 
developed in the Nile Valley, He was the son of a Turkish slave and was born 
and brought up in Samarra. He proved to be a great administrator and great 
builder. Al-Qata'i, the new quarter of al-Fustat, was adorned with magnificent 
buildings. He built for himself a palace which went by the name of al-Maidan 
as there was a vast ground in front of the palace where polo matches took 
place. The palace had nine gates and one of them was called Bab al-Salat 
(Gate of Prayer). He also built a hospital at an expense of 60,000 dinars. 

But his greatest work, which still stands, is his famous mosque; it cost 
him 120,000 dinars. 6 It exhibits strong influence of the Samarra school as 
ibn Tulun himself came from Samarra and his architects and craftmen too 
were mostly Iraqis. 7 This Iraqi impact is clearly visible in the piers of the 
mosque and in its ornamental work in wood and stucco. 

The mosque of ibn Tulun is built on the outcrop of a rock and impresses 
the visitor by its great size and the noble simplicity of its plan. It consists of 
a sahm, 302 sq. ft. surrounded by riwdqs, five aisles deep. There are thirteen 
pointed arches on each side. The sanctuary is formed by five arcades of seven- 
teen arches each. The arches are surrounded by a continuous band of ornament. 
Above runs a broad frieze of stucco rosettes each in an octagonal frame. 
The variety of designs, some composed of straight lines, others triangular, 
and still others circular and interlacing, is extraordinary. The windows form 
one of the most beautiful features of the mosque. They are 128 in number. 
Their pattern is a mesh of equilateral triangles by grouping six of which we 
can form hexagons. The minaret, which is built of hivestone, is almost a 
copy of the Malwiyah of Samarra. About one-seventeenth of the Qur'an is 
inscribed in beautiful Kufic characters on the wooden frieze round the inside 
of the building just below the flat timbered roof. 8 

Tulunid Egypt could also boast of a very unusual structure; it was the 
palace of Ahmad ibn Tulun's son, Khumarawaih (271-282/884-895). The walls 

• Ibn Khallikan, Wafayat al-A'yan, Cairo, 1299/1881, Vol. I, p. 97; ibn Taghri- 
bardi, al-Nujum al-Zahirah fi Muluk Misr w-al-Qahirah, Vol. II, Leiden, 1855, p. 8. 

7 Al-Muqaffa', p. 362, quoted by Guest in E. G. Browne Memorial Volume, p. 171. 

8 P. K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, London, 1949, p. 454. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy 

of its golden hall were covered with gold and decorated with bas-reliefs 
of himself, his wives, and his songstresses. 9 These life-size figures were carved 
in wood. 

Under the 'Abbasids the Hellenistic influence of Syria was replaced by 
the surviving influence of Sassanian Persia, which profoundly modified the 
art and architecture, and this gave birth to the art of Samarra, the influence 
of which extended to Egypt under ibn TUlun, and even Nlshapur and Bahrain. 
In palace architecture there was a vast difference between one of the Umayyads 
and that of the 'Abbasids, partly due to the adoption of Persian ideas of 
royalty which almost deified the king; hence elaborate throne-rooms, generally 
domed, for private audience, preceded by a vaulted llwan (or four radiating 
llwans) for public audience. The baits also were different, following the type 
of Qaar-i Sbjrin and not the Syrian type of Mushatta and Qasr al-Tuba. The 
scale was immense and axial planning was a marked feature. But all are built 
of brick and a great part of that basest of materials— mud-brick— hidden 
by thick coats of stucco. A new type of pointed arch appears— the four- 
centred arch. The earliest existing squinches in Islam date from this period. 
An important innovation was the introduction of lustre tiles, the earliest 
examples being those brought to Qairawan from Iraq in 248/862. Bands of 
inscription were usually made to stand out on a blue background. But the 
widespread influence of the 'Abbasid art did not extend to Spain, where the 
Umayyad art, brought thither by Syrian refugees, was still full of life. 

1. Muslim Architecture in North Africa 

The Fatimids.—When the Fatimids came to power in Egypt in i 
they built a new city north of al-Fustat and called it al-Qahirah (Cairo). 
Since then Cairo has always been the capital of Egypt. The great mosque of 
al-Azhar was also built almost at the same time (361/972). The original sections 
of al-Azhar, which still exist, are built in brick and have pointed arches. 
The minaret is of the heavy square type. The next Fatimid mosque, completed 
by al-Hakim in 403/1012, follows the al-Azhar plan and has a cupola of 
brickwork supported on an octagonal drum above the prayer niche. The 
triumph of stone over brick, initiated by al-Hakim, was not effected until 
the beginning of the sixth/twelfth century. The first appearance of corbelled 
niche is found in the mosque of al-Qamar (519/1125). This pillared mosque 
displays bold designs and austere Kiific inscriptions. 

The grandeur of Fatimid architecture may well be imagined from the 

• Ibn Taghribardi, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 57-58; Maqrlzi, al-Khitat w-al-Athar, 
Cairo, 1911, Vol. I, p. 316-17. 


testimony of the massive gates of which three are extant in Cairo : Bab Zawilah, 
Bab al-Nasr, and Bab al-Futuh. 10 

The Mamluks. — While the Tulunid and Fatimid architecture in Egypt was 
inspired by Iraq and Iran respectively, the Mamluk monuments were influenced 
by the Ayyubi school of Syria. The Mamluks produced some of the most 
exquisite structures. Made of fine and durable stone, these monuments are 
distinguished for their strength and solidity. Their simple decorative motif 
assumes infinite grace. 

Mamluk monuments may be roughly divided into three categories: the 
madrasah-mosque monuments, the citadels, and the hospitals, besides other 
public works like canals and aqueducts. The madrasah type was first introduced 
in Egypt by Sultan Salah al-Din Ayyubi of the Crusade fame. Although none 
of these institutions exist today, their impact may easily be noticed in the 
collegiate mosque of Sultan al- Hasan (748-63/1347-61). 

One of the early monuments of the Mamluk period is the Great Mosque 
of Baibars (658-676/1260-1277). It was built in 668/1269. Napoleon used it as 
a fort when he was in Egypt. Al-Malik al-Mansur Saif al-Din Qalawun (678-689/ 
1279-1290), a great builder, erected a hospital connected with a madrasah and 
a mausoleum with its remarkable arabesque tracery and fine marble mosaic. 
This hospital, known as al-Maristan al-Mansuri, was completed with the mos- 
que and the attached school in 683/1284. It had special wards for segregating 
patients of various diseases and contained laboratories, dispensaries, baths, 
kitchens, and store-rooms. 11 

His son and successor al-Nasir (692-740/1293-1340) surpassed him in 
the construction of public works. He dug a canal connecting Alexandria 
with the Nile employing one hundred thousand men; built an aqueduct 
connecting his far-famed citadel al-Qasr al-Ablaq (the palace of varied colours) 
at Cairo with the river; founded thirty mosques at various places in his king- 
dom; and provided for public use drinking fountains (sabils), baths, and 
schools. Inside his citadel he built a mosque the material for which was 
brought from 'Akka. 

Another noteworthy builder among the Mamluks was al-Nasir's son, Sultan 
Hasan, whose collegiate mosque is the most splendid example of Mamluk archi- 
tecture. It consists of a square sahn (central court) which is flanked by four 
llwans (halls) forming the four arms of a cross. Perhaps these unique cruciforms 
were each meant for the four major schools of Muslim theologfy. Behind the 
qiblah-waU of this mosque is the mausoleum of Sultan Hasan which was built 
in 767/1363. It is surmounted by a large dome made of bricks. The pendentives 
are in wood. In its general appearance it seems to have been inspired by the 
Sultanlyyah tomb of Sultan Khuda Bandah (d. 706/1306). 

During the Mamluk period the use of brick was abandoned in minaret 
construction in favour of stone. The cruciform plan of school-mosque structure 

10 Maqrizi, op. cit., p. 380. 
» Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 406-07. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

was perfected. Domes, renowned for their lightness, beauty of outline, and 
exessively rich decoration, were constructed. Stones of different colours in 
alternate courses (abldq) were utilized for striped masonry and decorations. 
Geometrical arabesques and KMc letterings were also profusely used. 

Although the last hundred years of the Mamliik rule are a period of decline, 
several impressive monuments of that period have escaped the ravages of 
time and turmoil. For instance, the mosque and mausoleum of Barqiiq 
(785-800/1383-1398), the Mosque of Qa'it Bay (873-900/1468-1495), and the 
mosque of al-Ghauri (906-922/1500-1516). The Mosque of Qa'it Bay consists 
of a mosque proper, a tomb, a fountain, and a school. It is made of red and 
white stone and the dome is decorated with a charming network of foliage 
and rosette. Elaborate arabesque ornamentation does not seem to have 
affected its traditional vigour and virile elegance. 

Qairawan.— During the reign of Caliph Mu'a-wiyah, his famous general, 
'Uqbah ibn Nan' invaded the Maghrib (the land west of Egypt) and founded 
the famous military city of al- Qairawan (49/670) south of Tunis. 'Uqbah 
built the mosque and his headquarters in the centre and grouped dwellings 
around them just as it had been done at other military towns of al-Kufah, 
Basrah, and al-Fustat. 12 The famous mosque of Qairawan, the fourth most 
sacred Muslim sanctuary in the world, was built several times by the succes- 
sors of 'Uqbah and finally by the Aghlabid ruler, Ziadat Allah I (202-223/ 

The Qairawan mosque is a big oblong enclosure. The sahn, trapezoidal in 
shape is entirely paved with marble. The arcades on the north side rest on 
columns, but the others rest on rectangular piers with two friezes with standing 
columns attached to their front face. The sanctuary, like the Cordova mosque 
sanctuary, is a hall of columns. It is divided into seventeen aisles by sixteen 
arcades. Each of these arcades consists of seven arches. They are all of the 
round horse-shoe type. The mihrab as well as the surrounding structure from 
top to bottom is constructed of white marble covered with carvings. Part 
of this decoration consists of inscriptions, the rest forms arabesques of various 
patterns. Round the mihrab are exquisite columns, also made of marble. 
There is a fine pair of orange-red marble columns situated in front of the 
mihrab which is actually a recess, horse-shoe in plan. It is lined with a series 
of marble panels, twenty-eight in number. The semi-dome has a wooden 
lining covere* with a coating to which is applied the painted decoration 
consisting of vine scrolls forming loops, filled in most cases by a five-lobed 
vine leaf and a bunch of grapes. 

The face of the mihrab is decorated with lustre tiles, 139 in number. 
At the northern end of the sahn stands the famous minaret in great pro- 
minence on a square base. It has three storeys all squarish or rectangular. 
At the top is a dome. The minaret is made of bricks. This is the oldest minaret 

18 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 248. 

on the African soil and is quite different from the spiral malmyahs of the 
mosques of Samarra and the mosque of ibn Tulun. 

In this region of al-Maghrib is found perhaps the earliest monument of 
Muslim military architecture. It is known as Qal'ah Bani Hammad. This 
citadel was built by Hammad bin Yusuf al-Barbari in the province of Con- 
stantine (Algeria) in 370/980. It contains a grand mosque, a reservoir, a 
palace, and some other constructions that were probably used for administra- 
tive purposes. The mosque contains a square minaret in the style of Qairawan 
but, unlike Qairawan, there are no corridors. The citadel is in ruins now. 

2. Muslim Architecture in Spain 

Muslim architecture in Spain is considered a great marvel of aesthetic 
ingenuity. The magnificent mosque and palaces, gardens and citadels, foun- 
tains and aqueducts, public baths and private dwellings that 'Abd al-Rahman I 
(139-172/756-788) and his successors built at Cordova, Seville, Granada, and 
other cities of this westernmost outpost of Islamic culture, were unparalleled 
in the entire civilized world. 

Spain was conquered by the Arab generals of the Umayyad Caliphs between 
93/711 and 527/1132. The capital of the Spanish province of the Empire was 
Cordova. Soon Arab settlements, especially Syrian, sprang up everywhere. It 
was these Syrians whom the Governors of Cordova employed as artisans and 
architects for new constructions, 13 and "the city was adorned with numerous 
beautiful structures." 14 It is, therefore, natural that Muslim architecture 
in Spain mostly exhibits Syrian features. 

But a systematic embellishment of Spanish towns, with exquisite structures, 
actually started when 'Abd al-Rahman I founded the independent Umayyad 
Kingdom of Spain. This process lasted till the death of ibn Ahmar (d. 671/ 
1272), builder of the famous castle and palace of Alhambra. 

During the reign of the Umayyad Caliphs, Cordova grew into the most 
magnificent city in the West. "The jewel of the world," according to a con- 
temporary Saxon nun, 15 contained one hundred and thirteen thousand homes, 
twenty-one suburbs, seven hundred mosques, 18 and three hundred public baths. 

One ofthe first projects of 'Abd al-Rahman I was to build an aqueduct for the 
supply of pure water to the capital. He also built a wall round the city and 
erected for himself a palace called Munyat al-Rusafah outside Cordova in 
imitation of the palace built by his grandfather, Caliph Hisham, in northern 

'Abd al-Rahman also laid the foundation of the great mosque of Cordova in 
170/786. It was finished in a year at a cost of 80,000 dinars (£40,000)." 

13 K. A. C. Creswell, A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture, p. 227. 

14 Ameer Ali, A Short History of the Saracens, London, 1951, p. 515. 

16 P. K. Hitti, op. cit., p. 527. 

14 Maqqari, Nafh al-Tib, Vol. I, p. 355. 

17 Ibn Adhari, p. 245, quoted by Creswell, op. cit., p. 214. 


A History of Muslim Philosophy- 
It is the third largest mosque in the world covering an area of 26,500 sq. yards. 
It is a vast rectangle, free on all sides. Covered porticoes surround it on every 
side except the southern where there are seventeen arches. The sanctuary 
is a huge hall of nineteen aisles, the roof of which rests on eighteen arcades. 
It could once be entered from the street by thirteen doors. The sahn is 
surrounded by porticoes. 

The sanctuary of this mosque is a forest of columns. They exhibit great 
variation of types. Some are smooth, others fluted, a few even have spiral 
flutings. The arcades too are of a remarkable design. 

The mosque underwent several improvements and enlargements at the 
hands of successive rulers. For instance, 'Abd al-Rahman III built a minaret 
73 cubits high "measured to the highest point of the open dome pavilion. On 
the summit of this dome are golden and silver apples. Two were of pure gold 
and one of silver. Below and above each were lilies very beautifully worked out, 
and at the end of the span was a little golden pomegranate." 18 Similarly, al- 
Hakam built a dome in front of the mihrab and it was decorated in gold mosaic. 

Although the architectural pattern of the great mosque, with its aisles 
running parallel to the back wall, the horse-shoe arches, the parallel gable 
roofs, and the arcades round the sdfyn, show clear Syrian inspiration, the double 
tier of arcades are the most original features of the great mosque. 

'Abd al-Rahman III (207-238/822-852) also erected a palatial mansion and 
called it al-Zahra', naming it after his wife. It stood on one of the spurs of 
the Sierra Morena overlooking the Guadalquivir (Wadi cd-Kabir). It was 
started in 221/836. Marble was brought from Carthage and Numidia. Columns 
as well as basins, with golden statues, were imported from Constantinople. 
It took 10,000 workmen to build it in about twenty years. The palace had 
four hundred rooms and apartments. The eastern hall was adorned with 
fountains, in which were placed golden statues of animals, set with precious 
stones. Water flowed through the mouth of these beautiful figures. The 
audience chamber was an exquisite piece of workmanship in marble and gold 
studded with jewels. 

The seventh/thirteenth-century citadel-castle of Alhambra (the Red Palace) 
built by ibn Ahmar (671/1272) in Granada is another great architectural 
legacy of the Muslims in Spain. It is situated on a hilly terrace on the remains 
of an earlier Umayyad citadel. It was enlarged and embellished by his three 

"This acropolis of Granada with its exquisite decoration in mosaics, 
stalactites and inscriptions, was conceived and constructed" on a grand scale 
and is without dispute "the last word in such workmanship." 19 In the words 
of Ameer Ali, "The towers, citadels, and palaces [at Alhambra], with their 
light and elegant architecture, the graceful porticos and colonnades, the 

18 Al-Maqqari, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 369-70. 

19 P. K. Hitti, op. cit., p. 595. 

domes and ceilings still glowing with tints which have lost none of their 
original brilliancy; the airy halls, constructed to admit the perfume of the 
surrounding gardens; the numberless fountains over which the owners had 
such perfect control, that the water could be made high or low, visible or 
invisible at pleasure, sometimes allowed to spout in the air, at other times to 
spread out in fountains, and serene azure sky ; the lovely arabesques, paintings 
and mosaics finished with such care and accuracy as to make even the smallest 
apartments fascinating, and illuminated in varied shades of gold, pink, light 
blue, and dusky purple; the lovely dados of porcelain mosaic of various 
figures and colours; the beautiful Hall of lions with its cloister of a hundred 
and twenty-eight slender and graceful columns, its blue-and-white pavement, 
its harmony of scarlet, azure and gold; the arabesques glowing with colour 
like the pattern on a cashmere shawl, its lovely marble filagree filling in the 
arches, its beautiful cupolas, its famous alabaster cup in the centre; the 
enchanting Hall of Music, where the Court sat and listened to the music of 
the performers in the tribunes above; the beautiful seraglio with its delicate 
and graceful brass lattice work and exquisite ceilings; the lovely colouring 
of the stalactites in the larger halls and of the conical lining in the smaller 
chambers," 20 made this architectural monument one of the wonders of the 

There was another royal villa within the walls of Granada. It was called 
al-Generalifife (a corruption of Jami'ah al-'Arif). It also was considered a 
marvel of beauty with fountains, groves, and flowers. The gardens were 
terraced in the form of an amphitheatre. 

The Alcazar (al-Qasr) of Seville is another notable contribution of the 
Muslims. It was first built by a Toledo architect for the Muwahhid Governor 
in 596-597/1199-1200. Of the many Alcazars in Cordova, Toledo, and other 
Spanish towns, the Seville Alcazar is the most renowned and the only one 
surviving. This gracefully decorated castle was till recently used as residence 
by the Spanish rulers. There is another Muwahhid monument in Seville, the 
Giralda tower, which was originally the minaret of the great mosque. It was 
erected in 580/1184 and was decorated with cusped arcading. 21 

3. Muslim Architecture in Iran 

History records that the earliest mosque in Iran was Masjid al-Thaur built 
at Qazwin in 81/700, but the earliest Islamic monument so far discovered 
in Iran is the mosque known as Tariq Khanah at Damghan, halfway between 
Teheran and Meshed. It was built between 133/750 and 170/786. According 
to M. Goddard, "by the harmony of its proportions and masses, it is still 
one of the most magnificent buildings of Islam." It was constructed on the 
vault system. 

20 Ameer Ali, op. cit., pp. 567-68. 
» P. K. Hitti, op. cit., p. 595. 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

Iranian buildings throughout the Muslim period were known for their 
exquisite domes. These domes never arose from the Roman pendentive 
employed by the Byzantines but from the more primitive squinch arch which 
spanned the angles of the square and were converted into an octagon. The 
earliest Muslim dome in Persia is that of Great Mosque at Qum, south of 
Teheran. It was built by abu Sa'dain Husain in 256/878 and was eighty 
feet high. 

Since then three different types of domes have been built in Iran: (1) single 
domes, (2) true double domes, and (3) an inner dome concealed by a polyhedral 
tent dome or a conical roof. Single domes were popular during the Saljuq 
period and were direct descendants of the Sassanian domes. The most con- 
spicuous and representative dome of the second type may be seen over the 
tomb of Sultan Sanjar at Merv (552/1157) while the most renowned earlier 
example of the third type is the Gumbad-i Qabus (398/1007). 

The Gumbad-i Qabus was built by Shams al-Ma'ali 'Abd al- Hasan Qabus, 
the ruler of Gurgan and Tabaristan in 397/1006. This mausoleum is actually 
a cylindrical tower with a conical top. The inside is empty, a continuous void 
from ground to the roof where it is domed with a tent-like cone. The total 
height of the tower is a Utile over 167 feet. It is built of burnt brick. There 
are two Kufic inscriptions also, one 26 ft. 3 ins. above the ground and the other 
just under the corbel. 

These tomb-towers hold an important place in the Saljuq architecture. They 
are mostly found in Adharbaijan and across the border in Quniyah. Pro- 
minent among these are Khalifah Ghazi at Amasia, the tomb-tower within 
the mosque of Sultan 'Ali al-Din at Quniyah and the tomb-towers at Akhlat 
and Kaisari. 

These tomb-towers are dressed in stone. They are usually octagonal in 
shape with conical roofs. The exterior faces are decorated with arcading cut 
in high relief on the stones of the structure. Most of the tombs have four 
windows or portals. The interior is usually plain and the chamber is always 
covered by an inner dome of cut stone. Built nights of steps to these chambers 
are rarely found. They were entered probably by means of a ladder. 

The Saljiiqs concentrated mainly on the construction of mosques and it 
was during their reign that the basis for the standard Iranian mosque was 
firmly laid. Its features were: at the beginning of a longitudinal axis an Ivan 
portal leads into an open court; arcades surrounding the court are interrupted 
by four Ivans, two on the longitudinal axis and two on the cross axis with 
prayer halls at the back of the arcades; the major Ivan opens into a square 
sanctuary chamber, crowned by a dome with a mihrdb in the rear wall of 
the chamber. 

The earliest Saljuq mosque containing all these elements is the small 
Masjid-i Jami' at Zauara, north-east of Ispahan, which was erected in 530/ 
During the Saljuq period vaults over the square or rectangular bays of the 

. i 

prayer hall of mosques display a considerable variety of types. In the earliest 
surviving Iranian mosques, the bays were covered by barrel vaults. This 
resulted in complication of construction at the corner angles and did not 
offer any opportunity for display of technical skill. The Saljuq builders replaced 
the barrel vaults by domical type vaults. In order to enhance the decorative 
quality of vaults, they built groin vaults, cloister vaults, vaults on groin 
squinches, vaults on triangular false pendentives, domical lantern vaults, 
saucer domes and flat vaults. Examples of these experiments may be seen 
in those areas of the Jami' Masjid at Ispahan which are assigned to the Saljiiqs. 

Surface enrichment of the Muslim architecture in Iran was of three types : 
brick patterns, plaster, and mosaic faience. Decorative brick-lay appeared in 
pre-Saljuq work, reached its maximum effectiveness under the Saljiiqs, and 
tended to die out in the eighth/fourteenth century. Stucco was an important 
feature of decoration even in the earliest Muslim monuments and held its 
popularity throughout. Faience, first used by the Saljiiqs on a large scale, 
developed considerably during the Il-Khanids and reached its zenith under 
the Timurids and the Safawids. 

A number of Saljuq monuments contain mihrabs executed in small cut 
bricks. Brick-end plugs were also utilized for decorative purposes but it was 
stucco, and to some extent sculpture in stone, that played the most important 
role in the exterior and interior embellishment during the Saljuq period. The 
arabesque and monumental inscriptions in Kufic and nasta'liq writing became 
an essential part of decoration. For instance, in Merv there still stand the 
ruins of the tomb of Sultan Sanjar (511-552/1117-1157) the last of the great 
Saljiiqs, decorated on the inside with panels of fine arabesque and inscriptions, 
both Kufic and nashh in cut terra-cotta. One of the most beautiful Kufic 
inscriptions of the Saljuq period is known from a ruined madrasah at Kar ghi d 
in Khurasan. It contains the name of Nizam al-Mulk, the Grand Vizier of 
Sultan Alp Arsalan (455-485/1063-1092). The Jami' Masjid at Qazwin, built 
in 509/1116, and the mihrab of Imamzadah Karrar at Buzun (528/1134) 
exhibit the most developed Saljuq style of decoration in stucco and stone. 
The Jami' Masjid at Ardistan (555/1160) has three mihrabs rich in stucco 
decorations. Here several systems of arabesque are intervened or placed one 
above the other, the heavy or baroque arabesque in high relief usually forming 
the background. 

Stucco was used extensively in the Saljuq era not only for the decoration 
of mosques, but also for that of palaces and houses of the nobles. Compositions 
consisted of hunting scenes and Court scenes. Occasionally, the relief of 
figures was so high and thick that it approached sculpture. These stucco reliefs 
are chiefly found in Rayy (Teheran) and Sawa. 

Fifteen Saljuq monuments display, on the interior or the exterior, glazed 
tiles used in the inscriptions or patterns. Mosaic faience developed in Gumbad-i 
Kabud at Maraghah (593/1196) reached a stage at which strips of glazed 
tiles were set in a plaster ground to form an elaborate strapwork pattern, 

A History of Muslim Philosophy 

splendid calligraphic friezes of lustred faience surmounted dadoes composed 
of star tiles in golden brown lustre on a white ground, and mihrabs were 
executed in the same material, for instance, the famous mihrab of the Maidan 
Mosque at Kashar (623/ 1226). * 2 Mention may be made of Malik Shah, a great 
Saljiiq monarch (465-^85/1072-1092) who made Ispahan, his capital, one of 
the most beautiful cities in Asia. He built the famous Jami' Mosque and for 
the first time introduced the tapering fluted style of tower in Iran. The finest 
example of this cylindrical minaret is found in Iran. It is called Mina-i 'Ali 
and was built by Malik Shah. It is decorated with geometrical patterns and 
bands of inscriptions on glazed tiles. 

Persia suffered the greatest disaster at the hands of Mongol invaders at 
the beginning of the seventh/thirteenth century. Merv and Nishapiir fell to 
Chingiz Khan in 617/1220, and within twenty-five years the entire country 
was not only occupied but cities were completely bur